Mike, thanks for the heads up on Vermilion, I just ordered it.
I just finished one of the best books I've read in awhile, "The Mechanical" by Ian Tregillis. I first came to Tregillis' work in his Milkweed Triptych, a trilogy about British warlocks versus Nazi super-soldiers in an alternate history of World War II. It sounds ridiculous but it was excellent. Next up was "Something More Than Night," a noir detective story about angels. Again it sounds sort of ridiculous but it worked.
This new book is the start of a new series called The Alchemy Wars. Sometimes I wish people would stop writing series and just a write a stand alone novel for once. But with Tregillis I don't mind because this is setting up to be a great series.
Tregillis goes back to alt history with The Mechanical. It's the early 20th century and the Dutch rule the world, mostly through their use of sentient mechanical beings. The mechanicals, or Clakkers, are programmed through alchemy, magic & clockwork. These automatons are capable of intelligent thought but are basically slaves to their masters through a series of geasa which require them to fulfill the orders of their masters or suffer pain. The Dutch consider them objects without free will.
In this first book we follow three main characters - Jax, a Clakker, and a French spy & a member of the French court. France has be relegated to "New France" in Canada and still tries to oppose the Dutch.
It's an engaging story that has me very excited for the next book. Highly recommended.