When it comes to fiction stories, I’m not difficult to entertain. I enjoy a variety of genres, especially mashups. Most of my friends and family know I’m a huge steampunk fan, and any who have seen my office bookshelves will easily find dozens and dozens of favorite science fiction tales involving alien civilizations. I’m quite fond of writers who put some serious time into developing unique worlds — Frank Herbert won my loyalty in middle school when I discovered Dune, and recently Neal Stephenson reminded me why I’m such a fan with Anathem. I’m always on the lookout for new writers with new world-building skills, and I’ve recently discovered a little gem of a story that stands on its own and manages to mix a tiny amount of steam with an alien-occupation story in a strange land called Dyn.
So, here’s a question for you — What would humans do if alien overlords kicked us back to steam power and put a race of robotic guards to keep us in our place? Humans will be humans, and The Silver Sickle shows that love and freedom will always be worth fighting for, even when the odds are against us.
I always try to hold back on spoilers, so I’m going to try and give you the basic rundown on the story without revealing any major plot points. I’m not giving away much to tell you that there’s an alien species called the Amar that has the population under its control. This is not a friendly alien species, and they’ve been in power for over a thousand years. They allow for a King (Koru), and give this king a harem that is a method of control as a way to instill fear in the populace.
Protecting the king and keeping peace is a mechanical army called cogsmen. They are as mysterious as the Amar, and they require maintenance from a master/apprentice system that keeps them operational. Zel is an apprentice, and he’s in love with Farissa. Farissa is one of the consecrated, young women who are tagged and at risk of being whisked away by the King and never seen again. Many girls are convinced that this type of servitude will gain them access to a heavenly reward, the Silver Sickle, but Farissa and Zel have made plans to escape the city. Technology is kept under tight control by the Amar, but Zel has what he believes is a secret weapon that might be able to be used against the aliens and free Farissa from the tracking the Amar place on all the consecrated.
Sharing much more would be ruining some great plot pacing and storytelling, but I think it’s safe to let you know that Farissa is captured, and she must deal with her new circumstances and imprisonment while constantly watching her back as she deals with a hierarchy in a harem rife with jealousy. Farissa also discovers the truth behind the Silver Sickle and the plans the Amar have for the future of their race. I won’t even give you a hint of the conclusion — I enjoyed it that much and won’t spoil it for readers.
There is so much to enjoy in The Silver Sickle but, for me, I just loved the cogsmen. Such a great and unique creation, and very mysterious in their protection of not just the King but also the cogmaster and apprentice. I’m not sure whether Ellie Ann will ever revisit these mechanical beings, but in the back of my mind I was just screaming for more backstory and details about how they came to be and what comes next for them.
So few science fiction stories these days attempt to provide a story in a single volume — everything’s gotta be a trilogy. Why? The Silver Sickle not only provides a stand-alone science fiction story, but it mixes together three great themes — aliens, steampunk, and a love story. It’s well done and deserving of applause.
The Silver Sickle is now available from a number of resellers, but, if you grab your digital copy from iTunes, you’ll also get a bonus song from Radical Face that Ellie Ann explains she found inspirational when writing about Zel and Farissa’s relationship.
Note: I’d like to thank Ellie Ann for providing me a review copy.