*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.
In an alternate history of 1850's Japan, Toru has returned from two years in the United States where he studied their military tactics, technology and economics. He risks his life by breaking Japan's isolation policy and returning to the shores of Japan so he can teach his fellow countrymen how to build and improve upon American technologies to defend themselves against the force that he knows is coming.
This is one of those books that I could not put down. Even when I had to put it away for the sake of work or eating, it was all I could think about! I was so invested in the characters that I told my husband, "if [character name] dies, I'm going to be very mad." I was very much rooting for Toru to win over the Shogun and arm Japan. I was rooting for Masuyo to pave the way for women to be engineers and airship captains, though sometimes I was rooting for her father, Lord Aya, to win just one argument against her. I was especially rooting for Jiro every time he gave himself a promotion.
While the book description says it's steampunk, the author, herself, agrees that it may not be "true steampunk". Technology is central to the story, but the book is more about societal and personal reactions to sudden changes in technology, as opposed to being about the technology itself. In this, I wouldn't label it as a steampunk novel, but that does not detract from the book, for me.
I greatly appreciated Sorensen's character and world building. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Japanese history is sorely lacking, so her attention to details about the land, the etiquette, etc. were quite helpful to me. Her characters were also so endearing on just about every level and diverse in their attributes. Even allies and best of friends have their own personalities and views. While there is drama and politics in this book, there is a healthy balance of humor as well, right up to the very end.
This is the first book in a series and, I'll admit, I'm quite interested in seeing where this alternative history goes. I give it 5 hoots and eagerly await the next installment!