Andrius B. Tapinas is one of those few truly, TRULY great Lithuanian authors. And since the only one I mentioned was mentioned in a rather embarrassing context, I figured this will set the scales straight. Hour of the Wolf is the first book in Steam and Stone Saga mr. Tapinas is writing.
The book is like a spiral going inwards. You start at the far end of it, Russia selling two last cities to the great Rothschilds, one of them being Vilnius, the Capital of Lithuania. You see, the Rothschilds are forming an Alliance of free cities, where alchemy of all types is nourished, all for the sake of science, of course. Thus you gasp at the Golems, the not yet forgotten art in one of the Free Alliance cities on Earth – Prague. You wonder at the murder that just happened, such precise cut that one, throat open as if with a scalpel. You are mesmerized by zeppelins and dirigibles, run not only on steam, but also on Prometel, an alchemical substance created and controlled by the Alliance. And most of all – you keep wondering of these ever appearing words – homnculus and biomics. Both, in general, are partially a frowned upon art, for it would create an insane power, for one of those things could tear through a whole squad. But at the same time – it’s something no one yet managed to pull off. All but one. A young woman named Mila, who once stepped into the view with three little automaton dolls. But not just any dolls, those dollies moved and acted on their free will! And if that’s not bad, what about the murder that happened in Vilnius? Who was the man? And what were the blueprints he had, the ones that got stolen barely a minute after his death? And who or rather WHAT killed him?
And as the circles are closing in onto the center, the story gets more intense. Mind you, author tends to slightly start each chapter on the far end of it, but just bear with it, every detail is worth something. Thus, as intensity grows, you get many mysteries solved in front of you, and if you’re like me, used to predict things, you’ll be both happy and disappointed. Happy that your deductions went to trash and yet disappointed that you didn’t suspect that, you, the great reader! All in all, book ended up with as many mysteries as it started, all different, of course, but for someone who thought this was a one-book thing – it then turned clear there’ll be sequels.
The book doesn’t truly and fully fit the steampunk genre, but the way it spilled out of the bowl was rather amazing to me. I mean, to those who strictly think steampunk is a Victorian era thing – you might be a bit too picky for this book, but those who understand that steampunk also progressed OUT of Victorian times, if you are also a fan of great alchemy-fantasy – you’ll love this. I can compare it to anime Fullmetal Alchemist for obvious reasons, I can also compare it to games of Syberia (I spelled it correctly, trust me) and many other things, but all in all, this is a perfect piece of an alternative history and I’ll give it 5 out of 5, with pride.