Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that is usually set in the late 19th or early 20th century. It’s notable for a unique aesthetic featuring clockwork and steam-powered technology. As it has gained popularity, steampunk has begun to include themes ranging from alternate history to time travel and can be set in the near past, the distant future and anywhere in between.
If you want to learn more about steampunk as a genre you can check out the Hub’s steampunk genre guide written up by Colleen Seisser. Carli Spina has you covered if you’re looking for some steampunk comics by female authors. If you’re still not sure where to start, read on for more recommendations.
If You Want Adventure:
- Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): When fourteen-year-old Sophronia is sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality she soon discovers that deceit and espionage part of the curriculum along with etiquette and dancing.
- Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff: Sent to capture an arashitora for the Shogun, Yukiko soon finds herself stranded in the wilderness with the creature. This unlikely pair will have to set aside their differences and work together when Yukiko hears of the Shoguns injustices from a secretive man named Kin and the rebel Kage cabal.
- Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (2005 Printz Award Honor): Cabin boy Matt and heiress Kate travel the skies via airship searching for elusive winged creatures rumored to live in the clouds.
- Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler: Wren McAvoy works as a coal miner in a domed city. After two hundred years, everyone takes life in the dome for granted. The only problem is that the coal is running out. When a friend escapes the dome he is used as a gruesome warning for those who try to challenge the established society. But his last words to Wren–“The sky is blue.”–will set Wren on a path that could change everything.
- Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Alek–heir to the clanker Austro-Hungarian Empire–and Deryn–a girl disguising herself as a boy to serve as a Darwinist airman–have to form an uneasy alliance if they hope to stave off the coming World War which begs the question: Do you oil your war machines? Or do you feed them?
If You Want Romance:
- Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (2011 Teens’ Top Ten): Everyone seems to want something from Tessa. The Dark Sisters want her to use her strange ability. A shadowy figure called the Magister seems to need her. The Shadowhunters want her help to fight creatures known as Downworlders. All Tessa wants is to find her brother and to forget all about the Downworld and her own place in it . . . even if it would mean forgetting about William Herondale and James Carstairs, two Shadowhunters with their own inner demons to battle.
- The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer: Charlotte and her fellow refugees survive as best they can on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire in the American colony until a newcomer arrives with no memory of his own past and revelations about what befalls those who try to abandon the bonds of the empires Machineworks.
- Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore: When Nimira is invited to sing with a wealthy magician’s automaton, she soon learns that nothing is as it seems at the fine estate of Vestenveld. As Nim learns more about her new home and the automaton she will have to make dangerous choices to protect herself and save the one she loves.
- The Perilous Journey of the Not So Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham: In 17th Century France, Lady Marguerite lives a luxurious if dull life while she contemplates if she may love her best friend, Claude, a smithy’s son. When Claude leaves to pursue better prospects in New France, Marguerite decides to follow him in this story inspired by true story of Louis the XIV’s endeavor to settle Canada with women of noble birth.
- Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson: When Verity Newton arrives in New York City, she quickly secures employment as a governess among the upper class magisters who rule Britain and its American colonies with magic. Recruited into the fledgling rebellion of colonists calling themselves the Rebel Mechanics, Verity soon learns that anything goes when it comes to revolution–and love.
If You Want Scary:
- Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard: The dead are rising in Philadelphia and Eleanor Fitt’s brother has been kidnapped by whoever controls them. Now, Eleanor will have to risk her reputation and her life if she hopes to rescue him.
- Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2011 Amazing Audiobooks, 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Incarceron is a closed system. Nothing enters the prison and nothing ever leaves. Food is recycled, materials made over and over. Prisoners, when they pass, are not buried or burned–their atoms are used to create new inmates. In a prison so vast, most prisoners cannot imagine a world Outside their misery. Finn is different.
- Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel: The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria. The problem is the Lazarus virus which is spreading rapidly and turning citizens into zombies. With the whole world changing maybe a human girl and zombie boy really can be together . . . for a little while at least
- Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Fever Crumb, an orphan raised by Dr. Crumb, is the only woman to serve on the order of engineers in a place where women are not thought capable of reasonable thought. When Fever leaves Dr. Crumb and the order behind to join a top-secret project she begins experiencing memories that are not her own–memories that make Fever question everything she thought she knew about herself.
- The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding: Wych-hunter Thaniel and his mentor Cathaline have to delve into the world of dangerous creatures in London’s Old Quarter to find out how to help Alaizabel Cray, a girl possessed by a mysterious something that draws all manner of evil and dark horrors to her.
If You Want Mystery:
- The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults): With mysteries all around her and far more at stake than she can imagine, Katharine Tulman will have to decide who to trust and who to protect when she is sent to her eccentric inventor uncle’s ramshackle estate to determine if he is actually insane.
- The Transatlantic Conspiracy by G.D. Falksen: Rosalind’s trip on her father’s Transatlantic Express, the world’s first underwater railway, turns sinister when Rosalind’s best friend and her housemaid are found murdered. Trapped on the train, Rosalind will have to find the killer to clear her own name and search for Cecily’s missing brother.
- The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason: Mina Holmes, daughter of Mycroft Holmes, is a talented detective used to working alone. Evaline Stoker, on the other hand, is a veritable social butterfly eager to use her preternatural strength and speed for their intended purposes–killing vampires. With obstacles at every turn and odious men underestimating their skills, both young women will have to stay sharp to solve a supernatural murder mystery before it’s too late.
- The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress: Cora, Nellie, and Michiko are assistants to some of the most powerful men in London. When their chance meeting at a ball ends in murder the three young women will use their unique skills to solve the crime (without drawing too much attention, of course).
- Revenge of the Wild by Michelle Modesto: Nine years after losing her family and her arm to cannibals on the wagon trail, Westie lives in Rogue City with her adopted father, Nigel, a local inventor who made Westie a mechanical arm. Westie’s search for justice ends when wealthy investors come to town who look exactly like the cannibals who attacked her so long ago. Determined to prove their guilt, Westie sets out on a quest for revenge that could cost her everything.
If You Want Magic or Mayhem:
- The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (2012 Readers’ Choice List): Finley Jayne will have to put her darker (and stronger) alter ego to the test when she is recruited by Duke Griffin to help in the capture of a criminal, known as the Machinist, behind a series of automaton crimes.
- Illusionarium by Heather Dixon: When Jonathan and his father are recruited to help find the cure to a dangerous plague, Jonathan discovers his talent for working with a new element called fantillium that creates shared hallucinations or illusions. But with the plague spreading, will working with fantilium bring Jonathan closer to the cure or harm everyone he cares about before the plague can be stopped?
- Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin: In a world where epidemic survivors are all missing something–an eye, an arm, a leg–Nell Crane’s missing piece is her heart. When she finds a mechanical hand, Nell wonders if she can assuage her loneliness, and maybe follow in her scientist father’s footsteps, by building a companion of her own.
- Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear: Noli thinks her dreams have come true when a mysterious man rescues her from her nightmarish boarding school and brings her to the Realm of Faerie. Unfortunately he forgot to mention that she was brought over to die as a sacrifice in order to save said realm.
- The Falconer by Elizabeth May: Edinburgh, 1844: Lady Aileana Kameron leads a double life as she secretly uses her magical ability and knack with inventions to hunt and kill the faery that killed her mother.
If You Want a Retelling:
- Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell: Nicolette, nicknamed “Mechanica” by her horrid stepsisters, is an inventor and mechanic. On her sixteenth birthday she discovers a secret workshop filled with books, tools, and an assortment of mechanical animals led by a metal horse named Jules. With a royal ball and technological exhibition approaching, the secret workshop may be exactly what Nicolette needs to earn her freedom in this retelling of Cinderella.
- Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine: Wen works with her father in his haunted medical clinic. When Wen is humiliated by one of the workers she makes an impulsive wish which is granted by the ghost . . . with brutal results in this retelling of The Phantom of the Opera
- Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin: Araby Worth copes with the fear and destruction of her plague-stricken home with nights spent in the Debauchery Club in this retelling of “The Masque of the Red Death.”
- This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee: In 1818 Geneva men built with clockwork parts hide away, cared for by the illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Alasdair Finch’s brother, Oliver, is dead. Desperate and grief-stricken, Alasdair brings his brother back to life in this retelling of Frankenstein.
- Everland by Wendy Spinale: London has been ravaged by bombs and disease. Gwen Darling and her siblings have survived the bombings and seem to be immune to the plague. When her sister is kidnapped by the mad Captain Hook in his hunt for a cure, Gwen will do whatever it takes to save her–even joining with a strange boy named Pete and his gang of Lost Boys in this retelling of Peter Pan.
— Emma Carbone, currently reading The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson