Monday, July 7, 2008

I Will Do Something Unexpected: Cathedral Child and Clockwork Angels by Lea Hernandez

PhotobucketCathedral Child, the first in Lea Hernandez's Texas Steampunk series, is the story of an analytical engine and the mysteries surrounding it, a political game and flowering romance. Sumner Nikola's father built Cathedral in hope that he and his childhood best friend, Glory, would take over programming someday. After Nikola Sr.'s untimely death, his business associate Parrish takes charge of Sumner and the Cathedral project, all going according to plan until Glory discovers a talent for communicating with the analytical device in a new and extraordinary way.

PhotobucketIn Clockwork Angels, Temperance's Spiritualist magic is popular with the parlor set, but soon attracts the attention of those who would use it for darker purposes. Her companion, Amy, an orphan adopted into her family, never sleeps but soon wakes to powers neither had ever imagined. As friends and lovers, they come together to defeat an unspeakable evil being run amok in 1897 New Orleans. Clockwork Angels works best as a direct sequel to Cathedral Child; I read it on its own before CC was reprinted, but the story is far richer if you know the background story.

The Texas Steampunk world is richly detailed with singing computers, talking jackalopes, wereyotes and angels. Her female characters kick ass, beating the snot out of would-be kidnappers, communing with the spirit world, and saving the ones they love from darkness; they are strong and flawed and beautiful. I unabashedly love Lea Hernandez's style, manga-inspired with sketchy penwork and fantastic settings: opulent train cars, the mysterious peach-and-morning-glory filled town of Heaven, Texas. If the story is sometimes hard to follow, then her artwork is certainly easy on the eyes for repeat readings. Warren Ellis, in his introduction, coined the phrase "Scientific Romance" and these two are certainly that, with Glory and Sumner or Temperance and Amy defying family and convention in their pursuit of happiness and the glory of scientific and metaphysical discovery. They are deep, emotional, fantastical stories, and anybody with a love of Victorian magical realism with steampunk trappings would do well to seek them out.

*Though unfortunately out of print, they are easy to hunt down via online booksellers; Lea Hernandez offers the superior Cyberosia edition of Cathedral Child for sale on her website
*Dangerous Beauty: The Livejournal of Lea Hernandez
*Lea Hernandez on DeviantArt
*You can read the entirety of Cathedral Child at Webcomics Nation. Click on the first page to go forward. (It took me a few tries...) Don't forget to look up her other comics (available there and at Girlamatic)
*Interviews: Bookslut,
*Lea Hernandez will be in the upcoming Tori Amos comic anthology, Comic Book Tattoo, with a piece illustrating "Ribbons Undone." (Perfect!)
*Seeking more steampunk goodness? Brass Goggles is my favorite stop on the web for all things anachronistic, with cogs in
*Lady Ada Lovelace was a real enchantress of numbers. Her work in early programming was remarkable for its time, predicting the use of computers for artificial intelligence and procedural generation.
*Jennifer Perkins (of Naughty Secretary Club) spots Victorian ladies with tentacles instead of toes popping up everywhere

Edit on 7/8/08 for extra links and good things


Dayna Desastre said...

oh la la! I'm defiantly going to have to tell my best friend Luca about these... she loves the whole steampunk thing and this will just be perfect for her!


Callan's Sketchblog said...

a Kajillion points to you for mentioning ada lovelace :D

DivaLea said...

Thanks for such a nice write-up! I am working on the third Texas Steampunk book, it takes place in San Antonio. (Which was quite the sophisticed town at the time Dallas still had mud streets.)

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