If you’re like me, you were thrilled to see a steampunk-looking show on the horizon in the form of The Nevers on HBO, but then you saw that Joss Whedon was involved, and you were very unsure if this was going to be worth watching.
The Nevers isn’t based on a book, but if you liked parts of the show so far, or are interested in books that are in the genre and master the art of worldbuilding, I hope the list below gets you excited for the wider world of steampunk and adjacent genres.
A bit of Romance
If you’re down with some romance in your story, then I cannot recommend Gail Carriger’s work enough. This is a rich steampunk world with werewolves, vampires, spies, hedgehog incidents, weaponized parasols and much much more. She has multiple series, and you don’t have to read them in any order, but I will breakdown the basics below if you’re interested.
Set in an alternate 1850s, this YA series takes place at a floating finishing school that’s actually a cover for a spy school. You don’t have to read this first, but it is worth reading for the amazing Victorian-spy school shenanigans alone.
This is the OG series, and you don’t have to read the Finishing School series to jump in here. It’s much heavier on romance and is a delightful adventure in every book. Here you follow Alexia Tarabotti as she navigates the fantastical world around her with a weaponized parasol.
I suggest reading this after you’ve read Parasol Protectorate only because this deals directly with the children of the characters in that series. So that setup really helps. That being said, it’s still a delightful romp, only this time they take to the aether and traverse the world.
Check out Children of Blood and Bone for alternate timeline + fighting the system. Another reason to check out Tomi Adeyemi’s book is because it will be adapted by Lucasfilm at some point in the future, so be ready!
Want some fight club action where everyone has their own steampunk-meets-Avengers kind of gimmick? I recommend Kady Cross’ Steampunk Chronicles series. Start with The Girl in the Steel Corset.
Clockwork and Zombies
If you’re looking for less romance and more action, check out Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century Universe. It’s an alternate steampunk universe and takes place in the US during the Civil War. Start with Boneshaker, which takes steampunk to a zombie-infested downtown Seattle.
Ok with short stories? Check out How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin. It’s a good array of stories and genres, so there’s something for everyone. I think this could be a decent place to start if you like the show, but aren’t sure what you like about it. Give this a try to find out more about your genre niche.
If you’re ok with magical worlds and secret fight clubs in different eras, try Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot. It’s a Regency-era story that is told entirely through letters. It’s charming and thrilling.
The time period doesn’t feel as front-and-center for this, but check out A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab for magic, intrigue and alternate Londons.
If you want adventure, new beginnings and alternate universes, this might also be a good time to check out Nnedi Okorafor. Binti may be a little farther from the steampunk world we started with in the intro, but it’s worth dipping your toes out of your comfort zone.
These are recs I put together off the top of my head, so it’s not all-encompassing of the genre, but I do hope it’s a helpful start for folks who are looking to dig deeper into the genre.
I will admit I haven’t kept a finger on the pulse of the steampunk publishing space as much in the last two years, so my reading suggestions are probably missing new releases. I’ll gladly add user recs if you have them. Just leave them in the comments!
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