fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Tim Akers The Burn Cycle 1. Heart of VeridonHeart of Veridon by Tim Akers

When my daughter was young and starting to read, she told me she didn’t like chapter books because “the words put pictures in my head.” Likewise, Tim Akers put pictures in my head.
Once in a great while, you get a book that visually plays out on the big screen in your head as you’re reading the words on the page.

Veridon is a city on the banks of a large river that feeds into a massive waterfall, in a continent that sounds like unexplored Africa. I’m sure everyone’s picture of Veridon will be just a little bit different because there are no long descriptive passages — just little bits and pieces: “she had a pretty chin and lips, but the smile she dressed them in didn’t make it to her eyes.” Or, “From the outside, the Church looked like a cancer of architecture.” People are described by a single feature or mannerism, without the descriptions being reduced to stereotypes. This brevity keeps the action moving and makes the reader create those images in their own mind.

Heart of Veridon is a conspiracy novel: One man against everyone; Double and triple crossing; Church against state; Old church against new; Strange outside forces in motion. Jacob, a failed pilot, is at the heart of it all. Exiled from his noble family, he lives between the criminal and upper-class worlds of his city. As the story begins, Jacob is given a special cog that everybody wants, and that many are willing to kill for. Jacob has to find the answers to a whole lot of tough questions and he’s got to decide just how far he’s willing to go. He is helped along the way by his trusty girlfriend Emily and her friend Wilson, an Anansi doctor… Or are Emily and Wilson really what they seem?

I don’t often say this about books, but Heart of Veridon would make a great movie. As long as the special effects — of which there would be many — were done right. It’s one action-packed scene after another. There are some spectacular cog-driven machinery and characters. There are fights, shootings, lots of sneaking around, and of course daring escapes and rescues.

Heart of Veridon is the first book in a trilogy but, fortunately, doesn’t end in a cliffhanger — it’s a complete novel in and of itself. The reader can either decide to stop here and be fully satisfied with having read a well-done thriller or, like me, try to find something else to read while waiting for the next book to come out. The publisher, Solaris, has been sold, so I’m not sure what the status of the sequel is, but I do hope we get to see more of Jacob and Wilson somewhere down the road (or should I say river?).

You don’t have to be a fan of steampunk to love this book. It’s not a subgenre I’ve ever explored before, but this was a wonderful way to take the plunge. Highly recommended for any one who likes well-written, action-packed adventure.

Published in 2009. The first novel in Tim Akers’ captivating steampunk-noir series, The Burn Cycle.

Captain-turned-criminal Jacob Burn is the unlikely survivor of two zepliner crashes. The first destroyed his career as a pilot, disgracing his nobleman father and ending his life of privilege. But the second threatens to destroy Burn’s whole world—Veridon, an ancient terraced city reborn through The Church of the Algorithm’s recent advances in mechanics, technology, and cog-work.

Moments before the Glory of Day wrecked, a former underworld associate of Burn’s handed him an unusual and complicated cog for safekeeping. But the artifact-cog quickly draws Burn unwanted attention—too much of it, from too many of Veridon’s most powerful factions, casting doubt on even his closest allies.

A far more dangerous and unpredictable enemy has also joined the manhunt, carving a bloody trail across the city, while Burn’s frantic search for answers only leads to more questions. At the heart of it all, the mysterious cog, which hides a secret potent enough to shake Veridon to its very core, and recast Burn’s entire existence.


  • Sarah Webb (guest)

    SARAH WEBB, a guest contributor, is Ruth's sister. They grew up together in a house where books were as important as food and shelter. Sarah reads almost any fantasy and dabbles mostly in the space opera end of the science fiction universe with an occasional break to catch up on the mystery scene. Someday, she will have a house with enough bookshelves to house her collection correctly.