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Breath of Earth

Breath of Earth

5.0 2
by Beth Cato

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After the earth’s power under her city is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magic to survive in this fresh fantasy novel from the author of the acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation— the Unified Pacific—in an attempt


After the earth’s power under her city is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magic to survive in this fresh fantasy novel from the author of the acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation— the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong secretary Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s power to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese forces, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming San Francisco into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Steampunk author Cato (The Clockwork Dagger) turns to the U.S. in this well-researched and vivid fantasy set in an alternate 1906 San Francisco that’s protected from earthquakes by geomancers. Japan and the U.S. have formed the United Pacific alliance and jointly targeted China. The entire San Francisco council of Earth Wardens is destroyed in a suspicious explosion, leaving only the hidden talents of young Ingrid Carmichael to thwart the next attack on the city. Ingrid, the mixed-race daughter of a vanished warden, is restricted from practicing magic due to both her gender and her dark skin. She must look for allies among the city’s persecuted Chinese refugees, exiles forced to wear yellow ID patches. Along with a renegade inventor (with a handy airship!), Ingrid sets out to confront the terrorists who plan to rubble the city and tries to appease the near-mythic guardian whose subterranean slumber is being disturbed. Cato cleverly brings her colorful Barbary Coast–era San Francisco to life, highlighting the neglected perspectives of the outsiders and the dispossessed who made up the majority of its populace. Agent: Rebecca Strauss, DeFiore & Company. (Aug.)
Booklist (starred review)
“Cato, author of the Clockwork Dagger books, begins a new steampunk fantasy series with supernatural creatures, action-packed adventure, mystery, humor, a touch of romance, and more to come.”
“Where Breath of Earth really shines is in its detail and relevance. Cato’s exhaustive research of the time and place gives the book texture and grit…[and] she embroiders it richly with gorgeous period setpieces, imaginative speculation and the charismatic Ingrid herself.”
Julie E. Czerneda
Breath of Earthis that rare gem, a thought-provoking, imaginative adventure of the highest order, chock full of wonder as well as heart-wrenching what ifs. It’s reminiscent of Jules Verne at his best, with brilliant characters who linger in the mind and heart. Bravo!”
Michael J. Martinez
“Beth Cato gives steampunk a magical, global twist in an action-packed adventure that keeps the pages turning in anticipation. And if you don’t fall in love with Ingrid Carmichael after reading this, you have no soul.”
Library Journal
★ 07/01/2016
The year is 1906. The United States and Japan have forged the Unified Pacific, a powerful group set on world domination, with China standing in their sights. In San Francisco, Ingrid Carmichael is secretary to one of the five geomancer wardens in the Earth Wardens Cordilleran Auxilliary. The wardens absorb earthquake energy, controlling the tremors and transforming it into electrical capacitor crystals known as kermanite. Daughter of a deceased warden, Ingrid carries a secret—she is a geomancer herself, the first woman with this incredible talent. When assassins attack and kill the wardens, Ingrid escapes with her mentor. However, without the full group of wardens, San Francisco faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. Added to this, Chinese refugees begin to force a wedge between the allied forces. Ingrid soon learns that her magic is even stronger than she realized, and she will need all of that strength to meet the conflict that may be contingent entirely on her actions. VERDICT The acclaimed Cato (The Clockwork Dagger) creates an alternate early 20th-century San Francisco of stunning detail. Drawing on the power struggles of the refugees and women's work, this vivid reality will keep readers intrigued to the very end.—KC
Kirkus Reviews
In a novel that imagines a very alternate history, Cato (The Clockwork Crown, 2015, etc.) channels her flair for steampunk fantasy into the story of a plucky heroine living in San Francisco in 1906.Ingrid Carmichael is the personal secretary to one of the geomancers who pull magical power from the Earth and protect the city of San Francisco from potentially catastrophic earthquakes. While Ingrid possesses her own exceptional and misunderstood magical talents, she hides them from a male-dominated society that has difficulty believing in a woman's capacity for intellect and power. When disaster strikes the city's geomancers, Ingrid is flung into the conspiracies of a world fractured by multiple international conflicts and dominated by a powerful alliance between the United States and Japan. She discovers unsettling things about her family and her powers and finds herself at the center of a plot that hinges on one of the biggest catastrophes in San Francisco history. Cato has a talent for setting in motion a cast of smoothly likable characters—it's easier to continue reading about them than not—but they rarely surprise and often feel like typical fantasy-novel types. This flatness makes her racially diverse ensemble feel like a dutiful nod to inclusiveness instead of a genuine range of individuals. In the same way, Cato's reimagining of history has an air of gauche, if well-meaning, appropriation. Her story argues for racial empathy, but the execution of its details relies heavily on lazy stereotypes. In Cato's San Francisco, the influences of Japan and China emerge in predictable details sprinkled throughout, but there are few deeply appreciated elements. A steampunk-flavored adventure with amiable characters and a fantastical version of San Francisco that has imaginative promise but fails to engage with the Asian cultures it appears to take inspiration from.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair outside of Phoenix, Arizona. She is the author of The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham. You can follow her on Twitter @bethcato.

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Breath of Earth 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
BrookeJohnson More than 1 year ago
This is a perfect blend of steampunk and fantasy, with unique, well-thought-out world-building on both sides of the two genres, and wonderfully memorable, lovable characters (Hell-o Mr. Jennings...). I would rank BREATH OF EARTH as a must-read staple of the growing steampunk genre. It's amazing. Read it. Can't wait for the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not always as fond of Steampunk as a genre. The authors tend to focus on “cool alternate toys I can imagine” and forget about story. Imaginary technology bores me without an amazing plot and characters I can identify with and cheer for. Breath of Earth has complex characters and plot in abundance. I don’t know which I liked better – the wonderfully diverse and rich characters or the non-stop excitement of the story. The setting is alternate history San Francisco on the eave of the 1906 great earthquake. But this is an America which is ruled by Japanese and Americans and where the magic of geomancers keeps stability in the world. The instability of world affairs, including brutal wars in India and China, sets the stage for the complicated interweaving of the plot. Ingrid Carmichael, our delightful main character, is a strong woman of magic in a patriarchal society that doesn’t believe women can be geomancers. Her mentor and second father Mr. Sakaguchi helps her hide her powers. But her world literally explodes around her when someone targets the of Earth Warden’s Auxiliary. She saves Mr. Sakaguchi, but he is wounded as they are targeted by assassins. With the help of handsome airship pilot Cypress Jennings (romance – yeah!) and his mechanic Fenris, Ingrid must save her mentor, find out who is targeting geomancers and try to prevent the world from literally shaking apart at the seams. The story’s non-stop action turns even more frantic when Ingrid realizes that instead of the solution, she may just be the problem. And that is a very quick and dirty summary which leaves out most of the plot-lines and twists. Between the lively characters, the unabashed use of magic and interwoven plot this was a stay-up-past-your-bedtime read. An instant favorite on my bookshelf, I will happily reread Breath of Earth many times.