Steampunk Thriller Book Review: Inevitable Ascension

A husband and wife duo of authors who take on every aspect of publishing, working independently of one another before smashing their manuscripts together, sounded like an intriguing idea to begin with. And so it was that Inevitable Ascension by V.K. McAllister landed in my inbox and reading queue. It is the first in a series, but the name of the series isn’t on Amazon, and it appears the sequel isn’t out yet either.

Update: Apparently the sequel is out and the original review is incorrect, it’s just difficult to find. The name is Inevitable Ascension Volume 2: Crossing Worlds.

We’re introduced to our dual protagonists, Violina and Lux, as they drag in some ferocious and once extinct monsters into a museum for a client who refuses to pay them. They live in the city-state Eden, in a steampunk-esque futuristic sci-fi world with two suns and a bizarre religion that revolves around events from the distant past. After deciding to recapture their prize in an attempt to resell the cubs to recoup the lost profits and improve their lot in life, they find themselves pursued by Eden’s corrupt police force, the Enforcers, for crimes they both did and didn’t commit. They steal another artifact in the museum for good measure, which turns out to be a powerful artifact that opens portals into other pieces of Eden’s history.

Talking much more about the plot would bring on spoilers of the highest order, so let’s move on to the characters. Lux and Violina are interesting, though a little shallow and a bit hammed up in their dialogue with one another. This was one of the first stories can say I finished despite not really liking either of the characters. As the story goes on, Violina takes a downward arc, one that leaves her believing she can murder indiscriminately in the name of “justice” of her own making. Lux, on the other hand, undulates from brilliant to stupid in the funniest (and sometimes most obnoxious) version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope I’ve seen put to pen.

That said, the world the writing duo built is fascinating and interesting, and the plot itself woven together with care. Given that it’s a time travel narrative, and one with many twists and turns, the detail work put into making sure every single twist and reveal was accounted for by the end deserves a salute. There are very few, if any, plot holes to be found here, a far cry from most of what exists in that particular subgenre. And the pacing was relentless, so it was hard to put the book down once I decided to invest myself in the plot and ignore my annoyances with the characters.

The writing itself is passable, sometimes quite nice when describing setting and the other characters. The main issue I have with it is the dialogue, particularly between Lux and Violina themselves. Every line doesn’t have to be a witty one-liner or sarcastic retort, and it gets a bit grating after a while because the authors didn’t quite seem to realize that. The dialogue often clashed with the tone of the scenes around the characters, and these tone shifts didn’t always work for me. This could be a personal preference, as a bleak plot doesn’t need to have bleak characters all the time, but I don’t think that characters always quip at each other either. I was looking for a balance I didn’t quite find in the pages.

All in all, it was the plot and world building that drew me in and kept me reading until the finish. For that, I give my recommendation: 4/5 stars, worth looking into if you like time travel or sci-fi thriller narratives and are looking for something a little humorous despite the bleak plot.