I know I have been pretty quiet lately, but I have been a tired hausfrau. Leave me alone.
Michel R. Vaillancourt is a romantic swashbuckler of a novelist. Don’t believe me? Just look at his name – all Canadian French and romantic and full of dreamy syllables. He lives on an island, you know- Prince Edward Island, to be exact. How romantic is that?
The name “Michel” rolls off the tongue, causing one to sigh right between the soft –ch sound and the dominant ‘l’ sound, simultaneously summoning the voices of Paul McCartney and Captain Hook. In his newest novel The Sauder Diaries… By Any Other Name , Vaillancourt creates an alternate history where pirates rule the flying airwaves, beautiful murderesses fall in love with a captured aristocrat, men can be created out of nuts and bolts, and rogue mechanical Dragons can destroy entire towns no matter if they are part of the Russian or Allied alliance.
Vaillancourt introduces us to the time period of 1888, 30 years after the end of the Crimean War. The Allied and the Russian Air Navies are still antagonistic towards one another, and the airwaves above the earth are full of steam-powered naval ships, merchant ships and treasure-hungry pirate ships. The story is told from the point of view of Hans Saunder (hence the title – the Saunder Diaries… By Any Other Name), a wealthy young German whose passenger merchant airship was hijacked by one of the most feared pirate ships in all of Europe or Russia – The Bloody Rose. Sauder is given an option by the legendary Captain Blackheart; either become a pirate, or die. Saunder chooses the latter, and the rest of the story is the chronicles of his adventures with the crew of the Bloody Rose.
One of the more interesting components of this piece of work is the implied equality that exists among the men and women on board the Bloody Rose; there are women in positions of power all over the ship, handling a sword just as well (if not better) then most of the men. Arietta Atala is a tall black woman who commandeers the Propulsion room, including the all-important EMIPALE mechanism; Sauder looks to her for leadership and education as he applies his knowledge of designing airships.
The ship’s Captain of the Gunnar-Marines is the beautiful and saucy Annika Nadezhda – not only is Nadezhda Sauder’s equal with a weapon, she is also smart and playful. She has her eye on the shy, moralistic Sauder, but he has a difficult time letting go of his Victorian values on love and relationships. They spar both literally and figuratively, and their blossoming romance is one of the best components of this book.
Alternatively, there is an underlying theme that pirate women are wild and free, while European wives and fiancés are demure and unobtrusive. This is a true Victorian England sentiment, and it plays very well into the world-building that Vaillancourt has created. Nedezhda delights in teasing Sauder that she has no intention of falling in love with him or wanting to go “back to stodgy old England as your terminally bored wife”. And yet, there is a sense of wistful irony in the Ladies of the Rose as they recall previous lives and lovers. Vaillancourt skillfully creates characters who are never quite what they seem, and do not always mean what they say.
In between all of the delightful banter between Sauder and the crew, there are many exciting battle scenes. Saunder presents himself as a pacifist, but finds out quickly that a pirate who is reluctant to fight to the death is a pirate who does not live long. He agonizes over his actions in the various battles, slowly coming to grips with the necessity of death in the life he has chosen. As his views change, he slowly comes to realize that he is enjoying his time among the crew of the Bloody Rose, and therefore he begins to question himself and his role in the world.
This is a book that held my attention – even in electronic format. Not many books by debut authors can entice me to read all the way to the end, especially if they are too slow or wander in plot. No worries here – Vaillancourt has produced a book that is at once thoughtful, scientific, steampunk, and visual. His characters are likeable, and his writing style is cohesive. This book just works. It is a full-length novel, but it has a cliffhanger ending which leaves the door open for additional escapades from Hans Sauder and his cohorts. I find myself wanting to know what happens next in the world of Hans and Annika and Arietta and Captain Braveheart.
Michel R. Vaillancourt is forty-two years old, currently living in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. He is married, and has a teenage son. He works in the IT field and he has been reading and writing for most of his life. He has been involved in Steampunk for two years and a fan of adventure stories since he was twelve.
Media Contact Information:
Michel R. Vaillancourt can be reached at his website http://michelrvaillancourt.com/ or by email at email@example.com . A media press kit is available directly from his website at http://michelrvaillancourt.com/about-the-sauder-diaries/ … .