The Cyborg Tinkerer
by Meg LaTorre
Book One of The Curious Case of the Cyborg Circus
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera, Steampunk, Romance, LGBTQIA
Page Count: 419
Release Day: November 17, 2020
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
“Treasure Planet meets John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire in this LGBTQ+ steampunk fairytale mashup.”
My Rating: 5 Stars!
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If you’re interested in listening to me talk about TCT, I’ve also uploaded a video review on The Westveil Archives channel, and if you want some more TCT-inspired content, I did the TCT Book Tag not too long ago. For my written review, read on below the video embed, or check out my review on Goodreads.
In a deadly circus competition, even hearts are on the line.
Gwendolyn Grimm intended to seduce men and women across the galaxy while working as a ship tinkerer on the finest vessels in the Crescent Star System. Alas, terminal illness is a buzzkill. When a life-saving opportunity struts into her life dressed in a pinstripe suit, she is made an offer she can’t refuse: become a cyborg and work as a tinkerer for Cirque du Borge, the once renowned cyborg circus.
The problem is, a new law has banned the creation of new cyborgs and becoming one means execution if caught. Thus, no one cares to see the wonders of man and machine anymore.
Ticket sales continue to fall as the circus announces a competition to determine which acts will perform for the emperor on his home planet—an opportunity with the potential to save the circus from bankruptcy. But the competition has deadly consequences. Losing acts have their cyborg implants forcibly removed, and those who survive the extraction are banished from the circus.
As the tinkerer, Gwendolyn is forced to perform the revolting task of removing the cyborg implants from the losing performers. When she falls for both the man running the competition and a woman competing in it, she must decide who to protect. But can she risk having to harvest the people she loves the most?
Five stars! Can I read book 2 right now?
Disclaimer: I was given access to an ARC of The Cyborg Tinkerer in exchange for an honest review by the author. Thank you, Meg, for this opportunity!
This book has it all. It’s science fiction, it’s steampunk, it’s action, thriller and romance. It has cyborgs, dragons, circus performers, and criminals on the run. It also features the most well-written love triangle I’ve encountered in many years, and it’s a sensitively written LBGTQ+ triangle to boot! Which team will you be on; Team Rora or Team Bastian? (I’m totally Team Bastian!)
The decisions Meg made regarding technology in this very steampunk universe, like how digital technology exists but isn’t common or cheap, remind me of Treasure Planet in all the best ways. The aesthetic in Treasure Planet is what made me love steampunk, so reading Meg’s world was a real treat in that sense. Don’t worry, though, the plot is nothing like a rehash of Treasure Island! This is an illegal travelling circus gone horribly wrong.
This novel features two POVs, Gwen’s and Rora’s, and this is handled very well. POVs only change at the start of new chapters, and the inner voices of these characters have been made quite distinct. I always knew who’s head I was in right away at the start of each chapter, even when the character’s name wasn’t immediately mentioned. The timing of POV switches was handled well, too. At no point was I completely surprised by a POV change, nor did I ever wish I was still reading the other character. I’m torn between commending Meg for sticking with just two POVs and not overwhelming us, and hoping we get inside Bastian’s head in the next book. I think at this point we’d be able to handle a third, and I am confident Meg would continue to do it well.
Gwen, our sassy and sarcastic MC, is a former ship tinkerer who has months to live thanks to a tumour growing in her skull. Cirque du Borge offers her a second chance at life as a cyborg tinkerer, but is the price too steep? The full extent of the job is certainly not what she expected.
Rora, an acrobat, is completely consumed by her desire to prove herself as a performer and win the Emporer’s patronage. To perform at her best, she needs the help of the tinkerer. Seduction time! What could possibly go wrong?
Bastian, the ring leader, is a hard, haunted man who lives and breathes the circus. He’s responsible for Gwen’s recruitment, but he isn’t completely forthcoming with her about what’s in store.
Most of the planets and ships named in the book are identified as such, planet or ship, in the same paragraph they’re first mentioned, but if you’re ever confused there is a handy glossary included at the back of the book.
Although we do meet some of the other performers, most of the attention is on the main trio and the mistress of the circus, Celeste. Friendly supporting characters Marzanna and Akio are charming, and overgrown bullies Abrecan and Thaniel are layered and effectively written bullies. (I feel obliged to mention that whenever I read Akio’s name I was thinking of “accio” and secretly hoped he would catch something in an unlikely way. No? Just me?)
Trigger warnings: There is violence, death, a lot of lust, polygamy, some very steamy sex scenes, mentions of self-harm, and a character with an eating disorder.
About the Author
Meg LaTorre is the author of THE CYBORG TINKERER, YouTuber (iWriterly), creator of the free query critique platform, Query Hack, co-host of the Publishable show, and blogger (Writer’s Digest, Savvy Authors, Writers Helping Writers, et al.). Formerly, she worked at a literary agency, and she has a background in magazine publishing, medical/technical writing, and journalism.
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