Review: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett

September 23, 2013 5 stars, Book Review 6 ★★★★★

Pabkins’ One Liner: As much fun as Terry Pratchett or Indiana Jones

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl

Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire. Airships ply the skies and Queen Victoria presides over three-quarters of the known world—including the East Coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.

London might as well be a world away from Sandsend, a tiny village on the Yorkshire coast. Gideon Smith dreams of the adventure promised him by the lurid tales of Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire, told in Gideon’s favorite “penny dreadful.” When Gideon’s father is lost at sea in highly mysterious circumstances Gideon is convinced that supernatural forces are at work. Deciding only Captain Lucian Trigger himself can aid him, Gideon sets off for London. On the way he rescues the mysterious mechanical girl Maria from a tumbledown house of shadows and iniquities. Together they make for London, where Gideon finally meets Captain Trigger.

But Trigger is little more than an aging fraud, providing cover for the covert activities of his lover, Dr. John Reed, a privateer and sometime agent of the British Crown. Looking for heroes but finding only frauds and crooks, it falls to Gideon to step up to the plate and attempt to save the day…but can a humble fisherman really become the true Hero of the Empire?

David Barnett’s Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up!


A marvelous adventure filled romp, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is a novel that has it all. Gideon is a daydreamer with his nose stuck deep in his penny dreadful novels, he wasn’t prepared for the terrible things that happen in his small ocean side town. This is a genre bender mixing steampunk, vampires, mummies, alternate historical fiction, and just a smidge coming of age story.

After his father is lost at sea, Gideon and the town start to experience quite a few odd things, from another ship showing up crew-less with nothing but a large wolf aboard, a murder in town, and his young neighbor seeing monsters. One of my favorite parts is the inclusion of the character Abraham Stoker! Gideon and Abraham befriend each other and while Gideon believes the cause of these troubles are mummies, Stoker believes it to be vampires. I know! – sounds farfetched right?

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“A stake through the heart?” Bathory. smoked. “I dare say if I hammered a wooden stake through your heart, Mr. Stoker, it would sting a little.” – pg 69
You wouldn’t believe how well done this is! The novel has a sense of seriousness to it while still managing to hold onto a bit of the ridiculous. Mixed such as it is this turns into the greatest adventure ever, as Gideon sets out and happens to rescue a mechanical girl. The two of them make quick time to London where there are so many more wonderful characters that Gideon meets. Each has such a unique and strong personality and quite a few times I found myself smiling or laughing as I read.
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“Hold on a minute!” Bent yelled, his own voice driving into his head like a gravedigger’s spade. He clutched his temples with both meaty fists and sank back into his pillow, murmuring, “Oh, sweet Jesus, fuck me sideways in a barrow of tripe.” – pg 112
While Gideon is a more than a bit naive he has this spark about him that motivates and attracts people. I’m sure you’ve all met such a person before. He becomes the unlikely hero.
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“He said a hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.” – pg 244
Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is adventure in the air, as this motley crew of adventurers set out each with their own agenda but all very dependent upon the other. With Air ships, slave traders, treasure hunters and government spies, the pace is action packed and I literally could not guess what was going to happen next – well except for the obvious bits that were of course meant to be obvious! This is not a book to miss and I’m twitchy to get my hands on the next installment!!

Be sure to read our Guest post from David Barnett: “Steampunk? What’s that, then?”

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl

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• An advanced uncorrected copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review. Quotes are taken from an uncorreted edition and may not be the the same upon publication. All opinions expressed are my own. Please note that this post also contains affiliate links. To view our full Blog Policy, click here.

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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6 Responses to “Review: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett”

  1. amel armeliana

    Wow!! Such a great review and a good story. Usually, I’m not that into steampunk genre, because it’s kinda complicated. But it sounds really good, I’ll put it on my TBR list.

    Thanks for the review 🙂

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I think this one has a simple fun mystery and adventure to it. The steampunk elements are woven in so seamlessly into the world that it doesn’t over complicate things. You will seriously enjoy it!

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      You haven’t heard of this one? I hope you read it sometime this year. It is such a fun read – I was enjoying it immediately right from the get go and those types are so rare for me – it usually takes me a good 100 to 150 to get into them lately.

  2. Jaime Lester

    I haven’t heard of this one, but I wanna read it. It sounds really stinkin good. I love the mix of genres all thrown together in one book. With a great cover, and an interesting and intriguing premise. Plus, your review. Yeah, I am ready to read it. Right this second. Just gotta get it first… On my way to Amazon!