Mechanical Magic by Lorraine Ulrich

When Aster Genisov, a creator of mechanical novelties, is asked to help a wounded elf, his special talents and painful past could be the key to the elf’s survival.

Y’rean was born to touch the sky, but when his wings are destroyed by a cruel master, not even the life he begins to build with Aster can assuage his despair. Aster has the means to help him—it’s written in his gypsy blood—but is love enough for Aster to face his past and embrace his talent for mechanical magic?

Buy at Dreamspinner Press

130 pages of solid story telling.

The story blurb grabbed me right away and I’m not real sure why. I’m not a big Fantasy/Steampunk reader but I must have been in the mood for gypsies and elves that day. Such a cool find that I may be seeking out other steampunk titles in the future.

The length is just about perfect. Nothing can tank a short story/novella for me quicker than trying to pack too many elements in the pages allotted. Ms. Ulrich chose her elements wisely. The pace flows well and the timeline is fairly simple. There is plenty of time to get to know the main characters … their relevant past history, as well as who they are now and their motivations.

The Steampunk element of this story is, at once, both understated and necessary. For readers who find themselves put-off, unfamiliar, or just plain confused by Steampunk then I would suggest they give Mechanical Magic a try before completely dumping the genre. While the ending would not have been possible without the mechanics and technology of Steampunk, this story never feels weighed down by science. The imagery is clear and easy to follow and adds a nice bit of color throughout.

The contemporary aspect of the story is just as easy. You’ve read 20 pages in the blink of an eye. I believe it is because the characters are truly developed and the reader cares about their happy ending. Aster is just a shopkeeper who keeps his nose clean and tries to live his life as best he can. Y’rean is a rare elf who has accepted his lot in life with grace and had been punished poorly for it. Tragedy has touched both men before the story ever starts so they are well starved for some kindness. Their road to happiness depends on Y’rean’s recovery, leading Aster to do his own healing. The length both men go to in order to help the other makes this a great romance. I’d be surprised if it didn’t make it on quite a few lists for the best romance of 2012. Very well written. And because sex does not automatically equal romance for me, I am happy to say that most of the intimacy either fades to black or kept subtle. There is enough build-up and tension to satisfy most readers, but the story itself relies on the couple’s everyday moments to convey emotion and affection.

If I had any criticism at all, I would be the choice made at the very end. As-is, the story ends well. Both men are healthy and happy, a previous wrong has been righted, the bad guy is taken care of, and there is the only graphic sex scene in the story. It is interesting and well written. My problem with the sex scene is that I was much more interested in how the bad guy was going to be handled. In my mind, Aster and Y’rean were solid, having accepted the strength of their relationship based on the previous tone of the story. Witnessing their full lovemaking at this point didn’t bring too much more to the story for me. I would have preferred the focus be on the man responsible for harming Y’rean. The included scene was clever, impactful, and could possibly be an open door for a second Aster and Y’rean story down the road so I’m not sure how, if at all, it could/should have been altered. I guess my only real issue with it was its placement, making it a quick wrap up after an expanded sex scene, instead of giving it the importance I felt Y’rean deserved after all he’d been through. I’d be very interested to hear how others feel. Maybe I’m just nit-picking since the rest of the story was so fabulous.

Overall, I would recommend this story to everyone and look forward to new stories by Lorraine Ulrich.