In a world of steam power and rifles, where magic has not yet been forgotten, an expedition sets out to found a colony in a lost world. The Voyage of the Minotaur is a story of adventure and magic, religion and prejudice, steam engines and dinosaurs, angels and lizardmen, machine guns and wizards, sorceresses, bustles and corsets, steam-powered computers, hot air balloons, and dragons.
The Voyage of the Minotaur by Wesley Allison is the steampunk version of Imperial colonization with a little murder mystery thrown in for spice. The Dechantagne siblings – Iolanthe, Terrance, and Augie – are nobles who live in Mallontah (a country similar to colonial England). They – Iolanthe – have used all of their family’s influence and sunk their family’s fortune into a venture to colonize a newly discovered continent, Birmisia. This book covers the settlers’ voyage, landing, founding, and first interactions with Birmisia’s natives – intelligent two-legged lizard-men that the Dechantagnes’ want to use as labor and dinosaurs.
This is a new author and a new sub-genre for me, so I had no preconceptions prior to reading this novel. When I first started reading [the sample], I was pretty impressed. The author has a solid plot and the activity is rather interesting. The sample – about 4 chapters – was good enough that I purchased The Voyage of the Minotaur and its sequel, The Dark and Forbidding Land. Depending on how the sequel reads, I may buy book three, The Drache Girl. This is felt like a first book for Allison, but I know he has written many others. I really enjoyed this book – there is a lot of additional potential in this book (and therefore this author) that a good editor can drag out of it.
It was after purchase that the issues of this novel started to appear. One of the first problems I had was characterization. Allison did not spend a lot of time building character – almost all of his main characters feel rather static: Iolanthe is rather cold, Augie is flighty, and Terrence is a troubled drug addict; Senta is happy-go-lucky, Zurfina the Magnificent is a mysterious Sorceress, etc. Allison’s secondary characters are so under developed as to be throw-aways – almost impossible to tell apart (unless you read with a moleskin and a pen :). We [the reader] aren’t really given enough information into character motivation – in addition to knowing what a character does, I also want to know why a character did it.