The Society of Steam trilogy concludes in Andrew P. Mayer’s Power Under Pressure. I dived right into reading directly after finishing Hearts of Smoke and Steam and was glad I did. Each plot twist was cleverly wrapped up in Power Under Pressure and as a whole, the trilogy stands as a charming origin story.
Steampunk superheroes in Victorian-era New York! The Society of Paragons is gonedestroyed from within by traitors and enemies. With the death of The Industrialist and the rebirth the Iron-Clad as a monstrous half-human creature known as The Shell, Lord Eschaton now has almost everything he needs to cover the world in fortified smoke and rebuild it in his imageeverything except for the mechanical heart of the Automaton
Power Under Pressure continues the story of a company of heroes on the decline as another is formed. I found its predecessor Hearts of Smoke and Steam to be the best in the series and I was somewhat disappointed to find Power Under Pressure to feel more like the first book in the series. Every complaint I had with The Falling Machine was beautifully resolved in Hearts of Smoke and Steam, but these complaints reappeared in Power Under Pressure. One of Mayer’s assets is how he changes character viewpoints with each chapter. However, I found this to be his downfall in Power Under Pressure. Previously, Mayer approached a scene from one character’s point of view which led the reader to ask questions and then answered them in the next chapter from the view of another. Not only Mayer did not stick to this writing style, but it felt as if minor things were never resolved. A great example of this is when two characters merge into one. Knowing Mayer’s style I just accepted it as fact and read on to see how and why the two characters merged. Unfortunately, the narrative in the explanatory chapter was vague and rushed. Mayer spends so much time writing the character’s inner thoughts that the actions are muddled and are never resolved. This led to many occasions where I wish I knew how and why an event happened yet ended up feeling more confused after reading the supposed answer.
Mayer continues the story of his engaging characters and I found myself reading to follow these characters. The highlight of Power Under Pressure, for me, was the evolution of my favorite character,Viola. Mayer artfully captures how loss and circumstance change an ambitious person. Without judgment, Mayer writes of a woman who becomes fueled by bitterness and jealousy and who frankly, continued to garner my support despite her sometimes questionable decisions. The possibilities are endless for this character and I sincerely hope that Mayer focuses on her story next.
The most annoying aspect of Power Under Pressure was its attempt at a romance subplot. It almost seems that after hitting his stride in Hearts of Smoke and Steam, Mayer wanted to try his hand at adding another dimension to his characters through romance. Unfortunately, I found the relationship between the main character Sarah and her paramour to be clichéd. The reasoning for this is discussed among the two characters and essentially boiled down to everyone needing something to fight for. Though Sarah had matured from her idealistic ways over the course of the trilogy, this very concept seemed to contradict her new found maturity.
Once again, following the lead of The Falling Machine, Power Under Pressure has a slow pace despite several action scenes. This, in part, is due to an odd sense of character timeline. It is somewhat unclear at the beginning of Power Under Pressure just how far after the events in Hearts of Smoke and Steam we are placed. This is further confused when, throughout Power Under Pressure, some “between book moments” and months are referenced. Every attempt at creating a mental timeline was challenged by several contradictory statements about the time-frame. This lack of timeline made me feel less involved and immersed in an otherwise intriguing world.
Power Under Pressure is a decent end to the Society of Steam trilogy. Though I was somewhat disappointed that Power Under Pressure was unlike Heart of Smoke and Steam,it nonetheless captured a whirlwind adventure which you can’t help but wonder how it continues. There are many ups and downs to the Society of Steam series but overall, it is one of the most unique steampunk series out there and serves as an adventure-laden origin story. Whether you are merely curious or interested to see this tale unfold, Andrew Mayer’s Society of Steam series entertaining and a good addition to any steampunk collection.