Steampunk and gaslamp are a genre of fantasy that I’ve only recently really discovered or spent much time reading. A few years ago, if you’d asked me what I knew of steampunk, my answer would have been relegated to an episode of a crime show where the investigation led the main characters to a community of people who enjoyed the genre and two young men got into a dul with pistols from the 1800s.
But I’ve since made it a point to read more books in this genre, and I’ve found that I quite enjoy it.
But there is something so fun about a steampunk or gaslamp world blended with a heavy dose of fantasy. I’m not sure if “fun” is a defining characteristic of the steampunk/gaslamp genre in general, but the titles I have discovered and enjoyed over the past couple of years have definitely all shared this sense of energy and fun. A lot of these stories are characterized by airships, a few also include dragons, and there’s always a good amount of some level of political intrigue, as well. I noticed that, even with my own books in the Turrim Archive series, political maneuvering and intrigue just kind of naturally slipped into the story and became a defining element.
The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder
Possibly the first steampunk book I ever read, this is such a fun adventure. Equal parts mystery and mayhem, it’s got some Sherlock Holmes vibes and a hefty dose of The Greatest Showman, sprinkled with court intrigue and brotherly friendship. Somehow, this story is at the same time a wild ride full of adventure and heart, with some very thoughtful undertones about true friendship and overcoming one’s past.
Nyssa Glass by H.L. Burke
This steampunk adventure has more advanced technology than one usually sees in the genre, but it’s still got that Victorian era feel. This story will lead you through an abandoned house full of hidden traps and secrets that will keep you turning the pages to find out what lies at the heart of this strange maze of mechanized marvels.
Tainted by Morgan L. Busse
Enter a world full of intrigue, danger, and political machinations. Tainted will take you on a wild ride. You will ride airships, encounter magic, and find yourself face-to-face with an unexpected Frankenstein retelling. Along the way you’ll meet a character who thinks she’s a cinnamon roll but is actually made of steel and a character who thinks he’s the toughest, most hardened guy on the streets but is actually a dear, sweet cinnamon roll.
Chase the Legend by Hannah Kaye
This Moby Dick retelling full of airships and dragons is a perfect way to spend a stormy night. If you’ve ever wanted to ride the waves with Captain Ahab and try to snare the giant beasts… but you don’t want to have to read pages of information about whales… then this is the story you’re looking for. It has all of the adventure and none of the boring bits. Add in a thread of redemption that the original lacks, and you’ve got the perfect adventure.
The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
The truly unique world that is the Cinder Spires, is an intriguing and politically charged setting. Here, airships are needed to travel almost anywhere. Meet the broody airship captain who is definitely not a pirate. He isn’t a pirate. He insists he isn’t a pirate. He may be a dishonored military man, but that doesn’t mean he’s sunk to piracy. The skull and crossbones-adorned gifts that his crew gives him are just a joke, you know. Add in a handful of other characters that you will easily fall in love with, sword fights, some magic, and a talking cat, and you’ve got a really fun story.
Renegade Skyfarer by R.J. Metcalf
Although this book has a bit of a slow start, the second half of the story ramps up into a wild ride of intrigue and adventure and heartbreak that is worth the wait. Airships and dragons? Yes, please.
A Matter of Blood by Lauren H. Salisbury
This one is a really neat retelling of The Prodigal Son in a steampunk sort of setting. The steampunk nature of this story is more relegated to the setting than really being a major part of the plot, but the main character is an inventor and the time he spends in the city checks all the steampunk genre boxes.
The Turrim Archive by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt
Of course I’m going to recommend my own books! My series definitely falls more into the “gaslamp” side of the genre. What is the main difference between “steampunk” and “gaslamp” you may ask? Well, apparently there are fairly specific rules to writing a true steampunk story, and those of us writing on the gaslamp side of things just aren’t interested in following those rules. So while the Turrim Archive does contain airships and pirates and some people wear goggles and in book 3 you’ll meet some robots… there is also magic that powers the airships and I have a wizard and artifacts of power that aren’t at all steam-powered. So if you want a sort of steampunk feel but you’d like it heavily infused with epic fantasy, then this is the series for you! If you’ve been longing for a story that feels like Treasure Planet meets Firefly (if Firefly were clean and family-friendly) then this is the story you’ve been waiting for!