Why did I read it: I ’ve been intrigued by the summary and also the cover for quite some time now.
Hunzinger’s Mechanical Circus, a rollicking seaside carnival where imagination meets machinery, seems like the only bright spot in the dreary city of Purinton. But a shadow is cast there one day by a tall, cloaked figure striding down the boardwalk and behaving in a most eccentric way — a man with strange eyes and strange ears and a mark at the base of his throat. He’s Fanule Perfidor, commonly known as the Dog King, and he isn’t welcome at the Circus. No resident of Taintwell is. They’re all Branded Mongrels, and they’re officially shunned.
So it’s understandable that Will Marchman, a young patent-medicine salesman, is wary when Perfidor approaches his stand and begins asking questions. Much to his chagrin, Will is beguiled as well. When the two men meet again at a public house in the city’s seediest district, all prejudice falls away. Lust takes over, then affection. An affair is born.
The naive but plucky pitchman soon becomes embroiled in a dangerous quest. Fanule suspects that Alphonse Hunzinger and Purinton’s civic leaders are responsible for the disappearance or incarceration of countless Branded Mongrels. But why? As Will’s passion and regard for his tormented lover grow, he’s determined to help Fanule get answers and prevent any further persecution…or worse.
With the aid of a dead and dismembered witch, a vulgar bounty hunter, and a dapper, voracious vampire, Fan and Will take on a group of ruthless enemies. If only they can stay together and stay alive long enough to see their plan through…
Review: This book surprised me by not only being a very enjoyable read, but also with having some new, strange concepts. I had such a good time reading it that I couldn’t put it down. I liked the mash-up of genres, particularly the Steampunkish vibe. I really liked the idea of Mongrels and their brands indicating the percentage of their mutation. Fanule and Will were great characters, together and apart. I liked the minor characters, and I think the villains served a good purpose. There could have been more grey areas or maybe a few more conflicts, but I liked the way things developed in terms of the plot, which was very interesting, and romance, which was really sweet.
My only complaint stems from my being a very greedy reader who always wants more of a good thing. Because I was really into what I got, I wanted the book to be twice as long. Everything worked and I’m very glad I got around to reading it, but I never fell as deeply in love with this book and its world as I would have liked to. I’m pretty sure that’s because the book was only a little over 200 pages in length, so I think more pages and more time would have allowed everything –from the world-building to the romance to the plot– to unfold in a much more organic way.
In conclusion, a really good and engaging romance with a lot of unique aspects. I don’t know that everything was used to its full potential, but there’s so few books like this out there that it’s well worth getting a copy of. I’m also very sad to discover/report that there aren’t sequels or other e-books set in the same world. If there were, I would be in the process of gobbling them up right this very minute. Instead I’ll wait for a little bit of time to pass and then I’ll probably read Mongrel again.
How I would rate it: 4 out of 5 stars.