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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: “Sally Slick and The Steel Syndicate"

Squee! My first peer review!

Although my own book is still what feels like a very (very, very) long five months from publication, I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the new book from Carrie Harris, writer extraordinaire and fountain of general writing knowledge. I met her during WriteOnCon last year – a fantastic  event which helped me fine-tune my pitch and helped me garner at least one agent request for manuscript during the  Con. I then took said pitch to a writing convention in May, where I received a staggering five for five requests for materials and my eventual publishing contract! Needless to say, I feel indebted to WriteOnCon, and especially to Carrie, who gave me some extremely helpful personal advice regarding publishing contracts and agents.

That being said…SALLY!

Fourteen year old Sally Slick is a mechanical genius, the only girl in a family that includes seven brothers. In 1914, girls aren’t supposed to fix engines or race tractors, but Sally is determined to prove herself to the local bullies in the racing circuit.  When her oldest brother James returns unexpectedly from Chicago with a robot and armed goons on his tail, Sally’s focus soon turns to protecting her family, evading the long, threatening reach of the Steel Don of Chicago, and making a decision that would allow her to follow a dream all but unreachable to young women in the early 1900s.

I loved the industrial, diesel-punky feel of Sally right from the beginning. Carrie has done a great job creating the grease-and-oil atmosphere of Sally’s barn-crib workshop, where she fixes up Calamity, her racing tractor.  Sally herself is a strong and admirable heroine, a young woman caught between the confusion of what a girl should be doing in 1914 and where her dreams and considerable talents are leading her. Her relationship with her best friend Jet, with whom she uneasily treads the line of best friend/boyfriend, is real and believable.

The book really takes off when Sally and Jet make a hair-raising trip to Chicago to meet the Steel Don, who holds her brother James hostage in order to secure the return of the prototype robot he and his employer, the brilliant and very odd Doktor Proktor, took from the crime boss. There in the big city, Sally and Jet meet the Order of the Jade Lotus, a group of kung-fu warriors who are determined to defeat the criminal syndicates of Chicago.  Exciting battles and Sally’s deft rebuilding of the Don’s and Proktor’s inventions result in more adventure than any fourteen year old should be allowed to have!

The book is a fantastic, old fashioned adventure, with just enough sci fi/diesel punk thrown in the mix to make it a complete hit with me.  With very few anachronisms that only a geek like me would notice, Carrie’s vision of the World War I era United States is realistic and gritty.  A couple of things feel slightly familiar – James reminds me a little of Percy in the Harry Potter books, the self-important older brother jealous of his younger siblings outshining him. (And on a personal note, Carrie, Doctor Proctor was the name of my brother's best friend's rock band in the 80's, LOL) But on the whole, Carrie has created a great book that I think will appeal to all ages of readers. I’m looking forward to more of Sally Slick’s adventures!