Reading Guide

Introduction:

When a priceless invention is stolen half a world away, four unlikely adventurerAMNS Floor-banner 2nd eds are caught up in an international intrigue that could cost them their lives. Only Pauline Spiegel, a gifted young engineer and artificer, possesses the knowledge to maximize the weapon’s potential. With the help of the man she loves, the soldier she is supposed to marry, and her best friend, she must see its schematics to safety. Their only obstacle: a gauntlet of asylum inmates long on “modifications” and short on conscience, who will stop at nothing to deliver both Pauline and the plans to Kaiser Bill. At Pauline’s side fight a ragtag group of semi-mechanical veterans, and an army of jewel-encrusted micro-mechs who have swarmed London to retrieve the device with the power to control the world.

Immerse yourself in this Steampunk retelling of a Shakespearean classic, replete with the newfound wizardry of alternative Victorian technology, mistaken identities, love triangles, and deadly peril, set again the backdrop of a Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and a world bracing itself for war.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did you feel about the author’s treatment/resetting of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? How did the novel diverge from the play, and what aspects did it share?
  2. How did the Victorian world portrayed in the novel contrast with historical reality? What are its similarities to the world we live in today?
  3. How does the novel’s attitude toward women in government, science, and engineering differ from the attitude of the Victorian era? How has that attitude changed today?
  4. How would the real world be different today if the Queens had succeeded in their grand plan?
  5. What makes Pauline such a compelling protagonist? What are her most appealing qualities? At what crucial points in the novel does she demonstrate courage, compassion, intelligence, a willingness to sacrifice herself? What do her relationships with Alex, Winston, and her father reveal about her?
  6. How does Pauline, Lakshmi, and Clementine’s shared profession of engineer/artificer differ from the role of women in modern society?
  7. Who are some of the more colorful and vividly drawn secondary characters, fully human and mechanized, in the novel? What do they add to the overall impression of the book? How do they affect Pauline?
  8. Which characters were historically ‘real’, and which were not? Can you identify all twelve actual historical figures? How did the use of so many historical figures impact your enjoyment of the novel?
  9. How far from scientific and engineering reality are the mechs? What sort of cautionary message does the novel imply about current trends in the real world?
  10. What does the novel imply about the rights of the disabled, and human rights in general?
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