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REVIEW: Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake – Jonathan Fesmire

REVIEW: Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake - Jonathan Fesmire

Genre: Steampunk, Western Sci-Fi

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About The Book

James “Bodacious” Creed stopped a killer and helped bring peace to Santa Cruz, a coastal California city on the edge of the American frontier. Now, the undead lawman, resurrected with steam-based technology, takes on dangerous criminal cases as a private investigator.

One night while riding by the wharf, Creed hears a gunshot. He and his coyote companion, Coconino, rush to the scene. In a forest clearing, he finds two dead men and a dying woman. Mechanical parts ring her neck and wrist, and as she whispers of her travails, the former Chinese slave dies in his arms.

Someone in San Francisco is using illegal machinery to alter and control women like her. To hunt down the perpetrator, Creed travels to the City by the Bay. His journey takes him into the depths of Chinatown, reveals a secret society, and puts old and new friends in danger.

How can Creed learn the truth before more women are changed, manipulated, or killed?

The Review

James “Bodacious” Creed is many things. Devoted father, private investigator, steampunk cyborg. But right now, he’s a man on a mission.

Set in the 1870’s, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake picks up where the first Bodacious Creed tale left off. There’s a warehouse theft in Santa Cruz, and someone’s trying to take off with a sample of “steelie” – steampunk automaton – tech. Creed catches the bad guys in short order, but then runs across a Chinese prostitute from San Francisco who was apparently trying to escape something – or someone.

She dies in Creed’s arms, and he vows to get to the bottom of who killed her, and why she has a strange kind of metal tech bonded to her that’s suspiciously similar to his.

Creed hitches a ride on the train to the City with his horse Johann and his domesticated coyote Coconino, but not before his daughter Anna presents him with a pair of new guns, keyed only to him. Anna both runs a local house of ill repute (or in this case pretty decent repute) and is a tech whiz who helped invent the new technology with… wait for it… Nikola Tesla

Once he reaches the City, Creed follows a number of leads, meets some of San Francisco’s elite, and soon has a whole posse of his own working to crack the conspiracy.

This is actually my first steampunk read – I know, I know. But I thoroughly enjoyed this book. One of my favorite things? The glimpses of old-time San Francisco, complete with a few of its most colorful characters, including Emperor Norton, a real-life figure who styled himself the Emperor of the United States and who paid for his purchases with his own hand-made money.

In the second half of the book, things heat up as Creed closes in on the perps, and they retaliate against him and his friends, setting even the quick-healing Creed back on his heels. And at the end (which I won’t spoil), it’s clear there are still some loose ends to be tied up, including from the first book.

Fesmire’s steampunk world includes some fascinating stuff –  lightbulbs invented by Tesla, and “a mysterious substance called ‘liminiferous ether’ making automaton brains and rapid healing possible.” I loved these bits of tech woven into Fessmire’s wild-west world, and the implications they are having as they ripple through society.

Jade Lake is a quick, fun read, filled with action sequences and great worldbuilding. And Creed himself displays a surprising vulnerability for such a robust action hero, especially when it comes to his daughter and several of the Chinese slaves he helps to free or avenge. It’s a good look.

If you love steampunk, westerns, or just good action-adventure sci-fi, grab a copy of Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake – you won’t be disappointed.

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