(originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/26721.html)
Back in 2010 I read and really enjoyed Lowachee's Warchild, so when I saw that The Gaslight Dogs was chosen as the November pick for The Women of Fantasy book club, I was more than pleased.
Overall, I liked this book. I don't think I liked it as much as Warchild though, but that isn't to fault the book either -- it really is good on its own merit.
I think one of my favorite asects of this book was the world-building, which is obviously a very important aspect in a fantasy novel. I recently watched Nickoledeon's cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender (which is an amazing show that everyone should watch by the way -- don't let the fact that it's a cartoon deter you), which incorporates fantasy and fuses it with Asian and Inuit influences. The Gaslight Dogs reminded me of the Inuit infusion (though the magic systems are completely different) that I found in Avatar, and I loved it. The Victorian feel of the setting, though muted, was still present, and I think I liked that it wasn't overpowering. Lowachee also really captured the feeling of the north, and tied in the Inuit setting well. I loved the idea of the Middle Light, though I was sometimes confused about the "rules" of it. I've also been really distracted lately because of school, so that's probably just from a lack of attention on my part.
As far as characters go I also have no complaints. Sjenn is a likable character who's easy to root for, and not just because she's the victim of colonialism. She's strong, but she knows when to give in for the sake of her survival. Jarrett obviously wasn't very likable for the 3/4 of the novel, but he was a jerk for some a reason. I mean his dad? Holy crap. That would mess you up pretty bad. So yeah, not likable, but I still liked reading from his perspective and seeing the psychology behind the WHY he could be such a jerk. It was also nice that there wasn't any sexual tension between him and Sjenn (though I wouldn't be opposed to it either, if it were done well).
My only complaint about the book was that it felt like not a whole lot happened despite the 350+ page count. The end started to get really good and then it just... ended. This book is screaming for a sequel, and I know it's meant to be the first in a series. It definitely reads like one, with this installment making up a lot of the set-up (and a lot of this set-up is absolutely necessary). It's just too bad because I wish there had been a little bit of a brisker pace.
Final Verdict: This isn't my favorite read of the year, but I'm still more than happy that I had an excuse to dive into Lowachee's shot at fantasy. I really enjoyed the world-building in this book and I loved that the magic was so infused with Inuit influences. I got a little confused with how the magic worked, but I think that was more my fault (I've been very distracted with school lately). The two leads were great characters to read about, Sjenn being my favorite of the two: she's a tough heroine, but she knows when she's in over her head too. Jarrett can be fairly unlikable, but that doesn't lessen the reading experience; rather, I loved reading his chapters and seeing the psychology behind why he was such a jerk at times. Also, he's much better by the book's end. One of my only complaints is that it didn't feel like a whole lot happened, but that could be attributed to the fact that this is supposed to be the first in a series (that ending is screaming for a sequel) -- I really do hope Lowachee gets to put out a sequel, because I would definitely pick it up. So, a mild recommendation from me, and a definite if you're already a fan of Lowachee.