Book Jacket


rank 1449
word count 55108
date submitted 08.11.2011
date updated 21.08.2012
genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy
classification: adult


Rachel Iliffe

A steampunk adventure set in another universe, wherein an assassin must ally with someone who hates him in order to rescue their loved ones.


Centuries ago, the technologically advanced clone race—the Sociotopians—made contact with the pre-industrial nations of the southern continent. Relations alternate, and the now industrialised continentals distrust the arrogant Sociotopians for the most part, although some of the clones have decided to exile themselves and have intermixed with the continentals.

Elliet Regan is the result of one such union. A palaeontologist, a cross-dresser, and an assassin working for his family’s organisation, he has more to worry about than the relations between his home and his father's people. Benevolent mercenary, Jared Simnel, seeks constantly to destroy him, while the jaded inspector Iobel Vindemar never stops looking for a way to make Elliet pay for his crimes.

But their grudges are put on hold when agents of unknown origin abduct every single Sociotopian and Sociotopian descended person in the mid-western part of the continent, Elliet’s siblings and two of Jared’s friends included. Elliet alone escapes, and with his friend Lizelba must ally with Jared and Vindemar to confront this mysterious threat and rescue their loved ones.

If Jared will let Elliet get that far, that is...

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abductions, alternate universe, assassins, clones, crossdressing, dark humour, empaths, first person, murder, revenge, steampunk, tragedy, villain pro...

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Kestrelraptorial wrote 451 days ago

Hey Rachel,

I just finished reading "Dolorelamia", and it's getting more exciting as it goes on. I like this adventure, beginning with the family meeting over wealth and business (kind of reminds me of Umineko no naku koro ni), though different, but the same feel. Then Elliet's adventures as a paleontologist and assassin (the crossdressing was hard to notice) and the encounters with the ghosts - those were spooky. I started to really get a feel for the world after about halfway through. A very cool story and I'll add it to my watch list.

Arnbjorn wrote 539 days ago

Club Grimoire Alternate Review

Chapter One

So here we have a whole 'mafia' type family running a criminal organisation in the underworld; but not in the Soprano sense; this seems to be almost satire. Mum heads it up and yet she sits there knitting with her needles, craving more grandchildren. Brilliant! Clearly they must all be cruel given what they do, but we only learn this second-hand. Of course that may change later in the story. The characters were all quite distinct and were brought to life through good dialogue, vivid mannerisms and expressions. One is able to begin to build a picture of their business and the world in which it operates; and it is an elaborate and very 'real' world. There is lots going on in this scene, and clearly a great deal of thought has gone into it to build up the believable setting and background.

I quite liked the MC. Apparently he is a cross-dresser? I think it would liven up the chapter if this were brought into it. What I think would help is to bring in more physical description too, which was lacking. Not much is required, as there's much else going on already; just enough to add another level of depth; I couldn't properly see the characters.

Well done indeed!


Charlotte12 wrote 554 days ago

Grimoire Forum Alt Crit

This was a pleaure to read. The chapter read smoothly, and as someone mentioned below, the dialogue was very well done. I also liked how you took your time drawing out the information about the family and the 'interesting' businesses they are involved in, as well as the MC's other 'skill.' I did find the sections where the names of peoples and places and allies pretty hard to follow and by the end, I was still confused. But that's not a terrible problem, as I'm sure as the story progresses, these details become clearer. I also agree that some more information on what makes Elliet tick or why he is so reviled by his siblings might add another dimension to the character. But over all, a great start and this should do well.

The Purple Morrow

Di Manzara wrote 556 days ago

Hi Rachel,

This to me looks really good. The title and pitches are good, well-written. I've WL this for now. I'll come back soon to read it.

It's me,

Elizabeth H wrote 558 days ago

Club Grimoire Alternate Review.

I reread chapter one and then went on to chapter two. The world building continues to enthrall me. It is obvious this is not a nice society, or a nice family, but Ellior manages to shine forth as a likable character.

My nits with chapter two are in the lack of setting. The dialogue is awesome, but it overwhelms everything else. I think I needed more in the way of setting and motivation. I want to know why Elliot is pursuing the lady. I want more inner thinks on this and also why he needs to pursue the involvement of someone who clearly dosen't want to become part of his scheming. What was it with this deal that was so important?

I am getting a very sci fi feel to the story, but not so much fantasy. Maybe it is the antennae? Anyhow, I adore sci fi. Thanks for a great read.

Elizabeth H wrote 558 days ago

Club Grimoire Alternate Review.

I reread chapter one and then went on to chapter two. The world building continues to enthrall me. It is obvious this is not a nice society, or a nice family, but Ellior manages to shine forth as a likable character.

My nits with chapter two are in the lack of setting. The dialogue is awesome, but it overwhelms everything else. I think I needed more in the way of setting and motivation. I want to know why Elliot is pursuing the lady. I want more inner thinks on this and also why he needs to pursue the involvement of someone who clearly dosen't want to become part of his scheming. What was it with this deal that was so important?

I am getting a very sci fi feel to the story, but not so much fantasy. Maybe it is the antennae? Anyhow, I adore sci fi. Thanks for a great read.

marianmlibrarian wrote 565 days ago

Club Grimoirie Alternate Review

Let me just say that I am so impressed with all the world building in this, even just the first chapter. You can tell that this is a world with great depth, which exactly what a sci-fi fantasy novel needs.

I was drawn in by the dialogue. The family operates in such a callous, awful way you get a sense for the toughness of the world right off the bat. I myself love scenes told through well-written dialogue.

My critique, mainly, is that while I enjoyed the dialogue, I had trouble seeing the scene. It won't take a lot of trouble to add a sentence or so here and there but I don't know where these people are. For the first part of the meeting, I thought only the "E's" in the family were in the room, but then Aunt Dore and spouses kept appear. It would help if Elliet did a sweeping look at the room and told us about how many people were there.

Obviously everyone has an "E" name for a reason, but now it falls on you to make them each a lot more distinctive. I couldn't hear or see the difference between any of them and had a lot of trouble keeping them straight. There is so much that is unique about the setting you have created here, I'm sure the characters who populate it are just as distinct.

Also, at one point one of them comments on Elliet's outfit, but we never actually get to know what the outfit is! This is a perfect time to show us that he is a cross-dresser because someone else brought it up. That said, because the world is so alien, you'd have to show that this outfit is out of the norm from the other men in the room, because we might assume that everyone dresses that way.

I like Elliet and love that he's a unique character (badass crossdressers are few and far between in books). I wish, however, that I liked him a little more off the bat. Since he's an assassin and his family are horrible and ruthless, I assume he will be a difficult to like main character (not the traditional "good guy"). I'd like to see a little more charm from him, perhaps more bemusement at the family meeting than grumpiness and sulking.

Finally, though I liked the scene, I felt it went a touch too long. There was so much information being thrown at me that I started to get a little fatigued keeping it straight. Can some of the information be moved elsewhere? I know you are probably cursing me under your breath for asking for more information AND a shorter chapter, but I think the scene can be more focused on Elliet.

I can't wait to see more!
Marian Librarian (The Mirror Tells No Lies)

Douglas York wrote 567 days ago

Club Grimoire Alternate Review

To start, I thought this was excellent. This is clearly a dialogue-driven first chapter, and it's uncanny the way you're able to provide so much characterization through dialogue. I was a bit intimidated when you began listing off family members, as too many characters in a first chapter can be confusing - but in the end you delivered like a pro.

Elliet and her mother stood out the most to me, followed by her two brothers. I thought the grandmother's comment "All my children are dead" was hilarious - and I really don't find much funny when reading (person character flaw?)

The beginning had a mysterious tone to it, and I knew eventually we'd figure out what the "true" (or intriguing) aspects of the family were. That said, if I were in a book store and reading the first page, I don't think I would have picked this up - which is a shame considering the first chapter was so great. In my opinion, you should have one or two sentences that speak to Elliet's more interesting abilities. I think more obvious foreshadowing in the first paragraph would better hook the reader.

A few more points:
1. The paragraph about the Rainbow King was hard to get through - not because it wasn't interesting, it just seemed a little wordy to me.
2. A few places you "tell" when you could show. You have a great ability of describing facial expressions, so in places like "said Ellian with a hint of frustration", I'd rather see it visually.
3. "I had one trick up my sleeve to soothe then over" - should "then" be "them"?

I loved the Progressive Adaptation reference to natural selection (at least I hope that was your intention haha). Anyway, this was really, really well done. I'm going to waitlist this now until I reshuffle my bookshelf, but this was an extremely enjoyable read and I'm definitely going to read more. Great work.

Douglas York
Majestic Shadows: The Pillar of Smoke

CaileD wrote 587 days ago

Grimoire review
This is nicely written and polished. For a while I thought it was some accountant's meeting, then you brought in the juicy stuff about murders and things. The MC with some prickily relatives, money and murder, it all comes together well, believable and inticing. Sorry, can't really say much else except this is some good stuff :-)
All the best

Sabina Frost wrote 593 days ago

Club Grimoire Review

I was pleasantly surprised by this chapter. The pitch wasn’t one I’d normally be intruiged by, but this chapter was so well-written and so well thought-out, not to mention amusing, that I read it smoothly and in no time at all, enjoying it. You have a good grasp of the language, the voice of the MC is great and very realistic, and the dialogue wasn’t stilted. It all flowed very well. I was amused by the great aunt, classic!
You leave a lot of into between the lines that smoothly brought the story forward and that’s not easily done! The plot was also very unique so it’s got a lot of potential!
I can’t come up with anything that could be improved upon.

Keep up the good work!

junetee wrote 595 days ago

Club Grimoire review.

I'm pleased I finally managed to open your book for this review. I don't know if I'll be on here long enough to write this but here goes.
This is a great read. I really enjoyed it.
The beginning is great with the family all so cosy and innocent when they are not who and what they seem to be . Its a very origional idea for a book and one I haven't come across on the site.
Like the bit where mum suggests selling off one of the kids!
Well written with no sign of edits.
FOUR one.The Rock Star

Ferret wrote 595 days ago

Club Grimoire Review
I liked this opening chapter a lot. - dear old mum with her knitting cosily suggesting the sale of the the thirteen year old daughter of the defaulting tenant, and the whacky, rather charming narrator with an interest in fossils and his 'special talent' - for murder. The long pitch suggests an interesting story - plus the reader gets some hints of this from the family meeting.
I was tripped by "my *idiom* of spending as much time..." I'm not sure that 'idiom' is quite the right word here.
Otherwise an original opening, interesting and well-starred.

Kara Thrace wrote 595 days ago

Just a Reader Review (short one at that)

I was pointed to this book by a friend who felt that it would probably be my cup of tea. I'm a massive lover of steampunk, fantasy and science fiction, and if the book I'm reading has a quirky twist, or a unique touch on those genres - I'm a happy bunny.
I read 5 chapters and forced myself to stop. That sounds so trite, but it's true. I'm running out of time this week (already!) otherwise it's the sort of book I'd love to finish.
I do like the world you've created, the segregation between the two races is well thought out, the world-building is solid and the characters feel real.
You have a unique and quirky sense of humour - which is right up my street - so much so that I knew what lines were coming before I read them - and that made me smile even more!
I do have a few comments that I hope you don't mind me making ...
The family meeting scene was well executed, however there was a large cast of characters involved (17 I think?) and some of them seemed redundant. I know that not everyone speaks during a meeting - but I would have liked just a little more involvement between them all. Mum however is fantastic. I have that wary edge when I read about her and I just think 'wonder what she's thinking'. And Eldian has my interest. Big time. I don't know why - but I think he's quite special.
You manage to tease the reader into wanting to read more - the subtle hint at Elora being something more is great! And the snippet comments about the Sociotopians and the hybrids has me wanting to know about their background.
As a steampunk reader - I wondered if there could be some more technology introduced? Certainly in the first 5 chapters I didn't see much that ressembled a steampunk style universe. I'm not talking the quintissential 1890s esque get up, or the zeppelins and mechanical spiders etc - but just a richer layer of technology. Perhaps something at the meeting? A recording device for the minutes for mum's private diary, and something when Elliet meets up with Lizelba? (love that scene by the way!). For me, as a lover of China Mieville, Felix Gilman, Robert Rankin etc - I just think that Dolorelamia could have that something special ...
I love Elliet, I think his cross-dressing, cool hairstyle and clear confliction with his "career" is great. I think you're the sort of writer who builds layers with characters - and I can see those layers piling up nicely with your cast. You drip feed us information and it's great!
Anyway, I'll stop rambling, else I'll be here all day!!!

rikasworld wrote 597 days ago

Club Grimoire Review
Sorry, this is not going to be any use as a crit. I didn't see anything that needed changing.
I thought it was very clever, the put upon hero with his difficult family, sweet mum and picky siblings and then we find out they are gangsters and he's an assassin. I liked the comment about it being a much nicer story if he could have talked about his archaeolgical finds. Liked mum being so reasonable about defaulting tenants then suggesting selling off one of the kids. Dotty aunt Dore was great too.
It all works really well. Very original idea for a fantasy (steam punk. I get what it is but not why it's called that)
5 stars from me.

Shelvis wrote 608 days ago

Club Grimoire Review of "Dolorelamia" by Rachel Iliffe [aka Karataratakas]

Let me begin by saying I’m personally a big fan of opening with a family meeting with a bit of dialogue, lol. That said, I very much enjoyed your method of laying out the plot (although a bit ambiguous) that Elliet is going to be doing something he doesn’t quite want to do. The conversation was rich with subplot possibilities, too, like the tenants (the blasé attitude toward them was chilling, as if they were numbers or livestock), the opium trade, the fossils and the Rainbow King (hmm…), human trafficking, a lost parcel and the possible foreshadowing of a love interest. Some might call this an infodump; I call it a business meeting, and especially with family they’re going to cover a lot of topics in a short amount of time. I found it not only plausible but likely, and easy to follow.

As far as any errors are concerned, I only spotted a couple of glitches here and there that you’ll easily catch on one of your runs. I typically don’t post those in the comment field, so if you’d like to know, I’ll be happy to pm you.

I’m intrigued by the time period, the place, and the technology. The hints you drop are enticing, I think, and I’m anxious to see the threads in this world unravel.

~ Shelley

Lucy Middlemass wrote 613 days ago

This is a Club Grimoire Review


Chapter One

The first thing that strikes me about this is how likeable the narrator’s tone is. The, “I mean” clarification early on and later the, “which is an interesting story actually” aside, for example, are both great. I’m convinced from the very start that this is Elliet’s POV.
The introduction of quite a few characters early on (many with similar names) might have been off-putting if it weren’t for Elliet’s voice.
I very much enjoyed great aunt Dore’s interjection. The family relationships and sibling rivalry are the easiest part of this to get into - I like the knitting mum and Elliet’s dislike of all his brothers and sisters. As far as the family’s dark dealings and the bigger picture (a lot of which is detailed in the pitch) are concerned, I feel I’d need to read on to get more of a handle on where the plot is going.

The writing here is very smooth - almost nothing I’d change. I struggled with, “The rest of us were tried…”but I think that was it.

A cross-dressing paleontologist assassin is just about perfect for a main character. I’ll star this highly and I would be happy to read on.


Jenny-B wrote 613 days ago

Club Grimoire Review - Dolorelamia
Rachel Iliffe

**Chapter One**

Small pet peeve of mine – opening a book with the word “It”. Reorganize the sentence: “The family meeting should have been my first clue that things were about to go downhill fast.” (or whatever you like).

Eldian and Eora don’t seem very “subtle” to me when their expressions show the MC what they are thinking before Elandra opens her mouth.

“The rest of us were tried not to look too awkward” – awkward sentence.

Again – refer back to Eldian as not being subtle – he is described as being ruthless with a miserly spirit.
The dialogue is good, even and believable.

Elliet is an assassin. Interesting.

It’s also interesting that you start with the family business seeming to be all quite legal and then the conversation turns and we find out that they also seem to be involved in shady dealings – like a kind of mafia family or something, with all the aunts and uncles and everyone present.

I like Aunt Dore and her inappropriate rambling during the family meeting. She might very well be my favourite character.

The writing is pretty good, with very few hiccups. The prose flows well and is easy to follow - this is a very good thing. The characterization will come, you did a good job of introducing several characters in the first chapter and giving them each distinct personalities. Admittedly, I got a little lost towards the end of the chapter. I thought something important was going to happen, when all that really happened was a revelation of the family’s business dealings and that they aren’t exactly the “nicest” people. The opening paragraph is a good hook, but you lost me by the end of the chapter. Not having read “steampunk” before, it could be simply that I am unfamiliar with the genre.


RMAWriteNow wrote 614 days ago

Hi Rachel; I love steampunk and this was no exception. The trick is to have everything a little off-key and twisted, not quite as it should be.
You started by having a whole family which was twisted, so that was a good start. The dialogue between the characters was good as was the character names which I particularly liked. This gave the story a very real sense of individuality. Your writing is easy to follow even though the setting etcetera is so unique, and so there is a lot to take in.
I must also comment on your pitches which, especially the long one, were very good. This is an area a lot of us struggle with, so well done.
I have very much enjoyed the two chapters I read and shall WL this for more I hope.
The Snow Lily

EllieMcG wrote 615 days ago

Club Grimoire: Doloremia
A great opener, KT : an introduction to a family of drug traffickers, human traffickers, assassin-palaeontologists and property managers; we can immediately glean that this is one of the worst families in existence.  Narrated by the suitably dry voice of Elliet, the dynamics of the family and their background and individual roles are described with highly entertaining voice that pulls you along. I don't have much to say - I really enjoyed it, and was struck by the originality of the pitch and of your first chapter. The only two broad crits that I can think up are that:
1) I think I'll get used to it, but all the siblings' very similar names currently have me confused. I get why it's necessary though, and I hope I can get used to it as I read! 
2) I did find some inconsistency in the parallel universe naming: there's opium, and gold, but pteropteryx (dinosaurs?) are differently named (unless there us such a thing as pteropteryx and I'm just a big idiot). Anyway, not a huge thing, just a thought.
and Eldian and Elora were too subtle for that. - I think this should be "because" Eldian and Elora were too subtle for that.
Hope that helps - I really enjoyed what I read so far, and look forward to reading more!

mat012 wrote 617 days ago

Club Grimoire Review:

First of all I'd like to say, great start. Within the first two paragraphs I already loved your MC for his irreverence and fatalistic views. I was very surprised to realize they were not just a family but a crime family but in a good way. That was an enjoyable moment of realization and snuck in rather well. A few nitpicks:

"The rest of us were tried…." I think the were is extra perhaps?

"Nine hundred and thirty-eight and five…" You don't need the first and. The only time and is needed in a number is to indicate decimal places.

"It wasn't as high as it had ever been…" It wasn't the highest it had been?

The bit where you mention it being a really interesting story is a bit hard to fit in with the rest of the narrative. Perhaps because there are so many new names and ideas here.

"I am not reputedly one of the best assassins…." Two things here. One, and this is a personal niggle drilled into me by a teacher long ago, how can you be one of the best? You either are the best or you are not. You can be on of the better assassins but there is likely no such thing as multiple bests at anything. And two, the sentence seems a bit clunky, perhaps "I am not one of the better assassins" or 'I don't have the reputation for being one of the better assassins" would work better here.

"…with my idiom of spending…" I think the word habit would serve you better here.

Other than those I thoroughly enjoyed the read and am extremely eager to know where this is going!


K.T.Bowman wrote 618 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique

I love your tone here :) your narrator has a great voice for drawing the reader in and making them part of events. I think my one confusion was that I had no idea what gender your MC was - I don't often read pitches - until quite a long way into the chapter. The unusual name used wasn't much of a clue. Maybe that could be made more obvious earlier on?

I like the interactions between the family. It can be difficult to have a large roomful of people in the very first scene, but I think you handled it well without it getting overwhelming :)

The one jarring note for me was calling the mother 'mum'. To me this sounds very modern, whereas all the other references suggested a more traditional fantasy world. I've never heard the word mum used in a fantasy novel before! Your choice obviously and maybe there's a reason for it that isn't clear yet, but it felt a little out of place amongst all the other names. I kept thinking 'mother' would be more appropriate.

A very interesting read, good luck with it :)


Kayla H wrote 623 days ago

Club Grimoire Review:
This is a wonderful story. I thought the tone was perfect and I love the narrator’s attitude toward the family meetings. Elliet’s mother is quite the character. The family politics and disagreements are well shown and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes.
Some nitpicking:
“that was to follow I mean, not the meeting” should probably have a comma after “follow”
“what I was wearing” should probably have a semicolon after it instead of a comma.
“her needles clicking together while she knit” could possibly be condensed a little: “her knitting needles clicking together”?
“the rest of us were tried not to look” maybe: “the rest of us tried not to look” or “the rest of us were trying not to look”
“to soothe then over the fact” I’m not familiar with this phrase. Isn’t it supposed to be: “to smooth over the fact”? I could be wrong, though.
“be nice to your Aunt” should probably have a semicolon after it.
“to that though” should probably have a period or semicolon after it.
I did find all the names starting with “E” to be just a little confusing and it took me a while to get them straightened out in my head.
Other than that, I thought this was excellent and I am very tempted to read the next chapter.

Emily Rebecca wrote 624 days ago

Club Grimoire Review:

You have a great voice for this story and very interesting characters. Love that Mum is the head of a crime family and knits at the business meetings, won't turn tenants out, but will indenture their children. Paired with Aunt Dore (who reminds me of several older relations who spoke their mind about everything because, gosh-darn it, they earned it by their age) you have some great family matriarchs.

There were a few awkward sentences that seem as if they were edited partially, but the rest of the sentence was forgotten. For example - 'The rest of us were tried not to look...'
I know, I end up with sentences like this all the time. ;-)

Best of luck with this! It was a pleasure to read.

Chancelet wrote 625 days ago

Club Gilmoire Review

Interesting characters and storyline. The style has an old English feel to it, until you read on. Such a seemingly normal family into such vile acts. That I like. There’s a bit of editing that needs to be done, but otherwise your writing is good. I’m not sure about the last line of chapter 1. “It was really just a taste of things to come.” From the paragraph before that, it sounds like your talking about the boredom.

N. LaRonda Johnson

anthrax wrote 631 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique

Hi, Rachel,

This is well-written piece of work, and structurally I couldn’t see much to nitpick. Just one sentence foxed me:

‘ “But the artefacts did cover the costs?” I asked.’
There might be a rising inflexion at the end of this phrase, but as it stands it isn’t a question. Should there have been a ‘didn’t they’ tagged on the end?

There are lots of witty quips in the dialogue, which is well constructed. There were seventeen people at the meeting, and while I found there were quite enough speaking parts to keep track of, I did wonder what the rest of them were doing. It’s a difficult one to pull off, the family business meeting, and I think you succeed with keeping it interesting with the slightly off-subject interjections of mad Aunt Doré and the conciliatory suggestions of Mum, equally unpleasant but presented in a soothing tone.
The impression I was left with though was of a uniformly horrible family with no redeeming features, and an MC who doesn’t really stand out from the awfulness. As a cross-dresser I was expecting more of a rebel, but not much came over, not even what he was wearing.
You set up an original idea with interesting characters, even if I’d have liked to have seen a bit more of Elliet in action, maybe earning some of his gold coin, to round him out. I was intrigued enough to want to read on. Hope I’ll have the time when GRIM is out of the way.


John Bayliss wrote 631 days ago

Club Grimoire Review

I like a novel that introduces me to a whole new world that's nothing like anything I've ever seen before, and I suspect that Dolorelamia is going to do that. I enjoyed this chapter and thought it was great fun to read; however (looking at it from the objective viewpoint of an editor or an agent) I wonder if you've just packed too much into it and given us so much information that it's nearly impossible for the average reader to take it all in. There are an awful lot of names to remember (many of which are very similar to one another, which I know is deliberate because they're all part of the same family, but as each one is mentioned, I'm scratching my head thinking "which brother/sister is this again?") and a lot of detailed background (like Elliet's career in paleantology) to absorb, and I fear that readers might feel rather overwhelmed and decide that Doloremlamia is not for them, which would be a shame, because it is clearly going to be a great read.

I realise that the purpose of the chapter is to portray the cacophony and chaos of this large, very dysfunctional family, and also to show us that the novel takes place in a huge and complex world with a history and geography all of its own. Also, there are obviously things in here that are important to the story: a mention of Vindemar, for example, who I gather (from the pitch) is going to feature later in the story. Unfortunately, I fear that the reader might tend to overlook these references because they think they're just part of the "set-dressing" that you're using to give the story a flavour of reality.

I don't want to appear negative about this chapter because I thoroughly enjoyed it. If something like this came much later into the story, when the reader knows Elliet better and understands the ways of his world, then I would have no issue with it. Most fantasy novels tend to ease the reader gently into the story by introducing just one or two characters and a fairly simple situation, and waiting until the reader is firmly hooked before opening up the big vistas. For example, you could start with a scene of Elliet excavating the Pteropteryx fossil, and his joy at discovering the rare fossil being spoilt by receiving a message that he'd been summoned to a family meeting. (Just a suggestion; I don't want to rewrite your story for you!). Then there is no need to mention paleontology at all in the family meeting (as the chaper is currently written, the paleontology bit is something of a digression and possibly a distraction from the main thread of the action).

By the way, I laughed out loud when I found out what Elliet's "other talent" was.

Good luck with Dolorelamia. Despite everything I've said, I enjoyed this chapter and look forward to reading more.

best wishes and good writing, John

Ian Oliver-Jones wrote 633 days ago

Club Grimiore Review of Dolorelamia

Hi Rachel

I Read your first chapter today and I have to confess I have no idea what “steam punk” is. Having read the chapter, I still don’t .

Chapter 1 revolves around a family meeting where various aspects of the family business are discussed. The activities seem to involve property rental, drug smuggling, human trafficking and assassination. It has a Mafioso feel with the Matriarchal head of the family, “Mum” seeming very laid back at first and then she plans the slavery of a Tenant’s young daughter when they fall behind with the rent. This shows the “Matter of fact” ruthlessness of the family.

Elliet, the MC seems to be a colourful character, bored with proceedings, he seems to walk his own path away from the constraints of the family business. His relationship with his siblings is strained, especially between himself and his younger sister Elora. She seems to delight in highlighting his weaknesses whether in dress or business sense and has an abrasive, bitchy persona. Eldian seems to epitomise what the family stands for, he is methodical and efficient at bringing in rental revenue.

The MC is an assassin, a heinous profession and yet when he is compared to the rest of his family, he seems almost pious. Dore is a really funny personality, she’s as mad as a box of frogs, long ago you could imagine her as a true leader. She hints as much in her outbursts, evil tirades directed at enemy’s long since silenced, still spit like an angry fire from her mouth.

The mother knitting throughout is a nice touch, it reminds me of “A Tale Of Two City’s” Madam guillotine sitting by executions, watching as the cream of the French aristocracy lose their heads, without her dropping a stitch.

I have to admit the first time I tried to read this I gave up, I found it hard work. (Probably because I had just got up) I sat down later to gave it my full attention and I really liked it. It is well written, flows well and I found it entertaining.

One negative point I have to make, analyzing my feelings after the read. Do I care what happens to the MC? No.
Do I care what happens to Dore? Yes.

Maybe Elliet grows in stature as the book progresses, I will find out when I have time.

Thanks for an enjoyable read and I wish you all the best with this.

Regards Ian “The Paladin Vampire”

Eftborin wrote 635 days ago

Club Grimiore comment.

Hi Rachel,
Fascinating read. The numbers at the meeting are disclosed and when each made their point I began to realise it was a family run business that included in-laws. The mother is great. Knitting and seemingly not paying attention to what is being read out, yet springs into life when she is concerned about families owing monies.
I am concerned about the 2nd para...too many 'I'd's'
nothing much stood out except "The rest of us were tried to look..." delete 'were'.
Perhaps when you read through it again, i suggest you try substituting some words by using the thesaurus dictionary.
good read...look forward to next chapter.

Elizabeth H wrote 637 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique

Hi Rachel,

I have read steam punk before and am intrigued as to what you are going to do with this. Reinventing things must be one of the hardest things to come up with.

I loved the first chapter. Elliet is decidedly different and a fun character. I saw from the pitch that he is a cross dresser, so got the point of the snide remark about his choice of apparel. Aside from him, and possibly his mother, none of the family are very nice people.They appear to be running something along the lines of the Mafia and don't hesitate to trade drugs and slaves. Given that the Red Arm does the same, it can't be a Sociotopian traite. Somehow, I sort of imagine those dudes to be more civilized.

A question for you. Where is the Sociotopian dad? I'd like to know why he isn't in the picture. Of course, this might be in the next chapter.

A couple of nits for you.

The rest of us were( tried )not to look awkward before Mom …Editing glitch?
The point is that( at) the money we gained from the trip…extra word

Thanks for the read.

K E Shaw wrote 637 days ago

CG review

I love it when, on this site, a story sucks me in so that I almost forget that I am meant to have my reviewer's hat on. I tried, but it just kept falling off. Luckily, I made some notes.

I have never read a 'steampunk' novel or even a chapter before, so had no idea what to expect, or what it is that defines this as a genre.

What I found was a tightly woven, well crafted mini-portrait of what could well be a typical, multi-sibling family dynamic - with the elements of other world, other society, other reality the supporting structure rather than an overwhelming factor.

There are some absolute gems - such as the little give-aways about the relationship between Elora and Elliet, the way that she smiles at him implying an entire back-history of sibling judgment and rivalry. I think if my son were to read this, Elora would remind him just a bit of his own sister!

We are left in no doubt that Elora would and does take pleasure in Elliet's failures, her comment about "your Rixian junk" as a put-down is a lovely touch.

Mum is a delight - so matronly and soothingly domestic with her knitting and concern for their tenants, so clearly ruthless in her satisfaction with the plan to indenture a tenant's child. Hints of intriguing world-building to come.

Senile great Aunt Dore is a welcome and wonderful comic touch.

My favourite line of this chapter comes when Mum is asking Elliet about girls he may, or may not, have met. "My forehead hit the table with a thunk." Funny, vivid, and oh so relatable!

In fact, I have only 1 or 2 very minor niggles: when Elliot is thinking about his recent trip and the artifacts he found (stole, smuggled), the POV suddenly lapsed from 1st person to first person narrator when he says, silently to us the readers, that "this story" is not a nice one.

The repetition of "E" names I have no problem with, as it is clearly a mechanism of the plot and structure, but I did find myself having to go back and check which of the two othe brothers was which - somehow, the sisters stood out more clearly to me.

Lastly, Elora's husband Sharda - only opens his mouth to defend himself. Nicely done - it tells us a great deal about this family, and his wife. Funny, sinister, and I will be back for more.

Stormshine wrote 637 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique:

I was super happy to discover that there was another Steampunk novel as part of this competition. It's my favorite fantasy sub-genre.

Hook: What really worked about the way you opened up your story was the way in which you gradually gave us snippets of information, not through any sort info-dump, but through Elliet's interaction with his family. At first it seems like they're just a bunch of greedy property owners, then you start giving us little tidbits about what Elliet's other business is, and then finally you reveal to us that these really aren't good people at all (despite the lighthearted atmosphere) by revealing they trade in humans as well.

Plot/Characters: Didn't really get much of a sense of the plot to come in this chapter. Normally I would consider that a fault, but I think you did such an extraordinary job introducing the characters and what they represent that I didn't feel like the lack of progress in a story lacking. I'm sure it'll come up in the next chapter. I thought that what you did with the names was cute, but it did make it difficult to keep the siblings straight in this chapter due to their similarities. Maybe something to keep in mind. You did an excellent job of portraying each character as an individual and I especially liked the crazy aunt.

Style: You have managed to present your story with a clear and consistent voice that to me, is so rare. Your writing is very crisp and manages to portray both seriousness and lightheartedness without making me feel like it's jumping around.

Dialogue: I could picture the conversation as I was reading. It seemed very natural.

Technical: My only nitpick is that there was one instance where you betrayed Elliat's POV when you said that "the thought of spending time with her children made Elora roll her eyes".

This was truly an enjoyable read!

Inkysparrow wrote 638 days ago

Club Grimoire Review

I loved the depiction of this crime family headed by a seeming fluffy and matronly Donna (who's actually as ruthless as everyone else). Your long pitch had me a little confused, but my visit to your first chapter had me interested.

Your style was humorous with a slight formality. I get the idea that the MC, though slightly unworthy in his family's eyes, is at least educated. I had a bit of a problem with his worry in the beginning of the paragraph. I think you're missing a pronoun "That I'd botched IT...but maybe you meant the line to be that way. It was a little confusing, anyway. Your development of the chapter is mostly through narration - I didn't get a lot in the way of description. I have no idea what any of his brothers or sisters look like, but I did get a pretty good idea of their personalities and foibles. I'm not too picky of knowing what each character looks like unless it's something dramatic, however, and you had enough movement in the chapter that I wasn't assaulted by a dialogue deluge :)

Character: Although I found all the characters funny, I also found them to be pretty ruthless. I didn't get any different sort of vibe from Elliet except that everyone else thought he was an idiot. He didn't care much that they were going to sell off some poor 13 year old girl, for instance. It might be nice if we got at least a hint that he was slightly different from the rest of the family - had a heart instead of a stone :)

This chapter gives me little clue as to the general theme you are aiming for - I'm suspecting perhaps the theme, from your somewhat confusing long pitch, is to become a better man so that he can save the day. This is a fairly familiar theme in fantasy stories. However, this story seemed more like Sci-fi than fantasy to me. I might be wrong? I mean, I get that they are from another planet, but I don't see the fantasy here. Will there be some elements of fantasy addressed: Magic perhaps?

I like the way you end the chapter - we have some foreboding that things are going to go wrong, plus we have the pitch so we're expecting it. You introduce the MC's job in the family and we understand why the law is after him. I wonder if the thing he bungled is what causes the tragedy.

I understand the setting is within his family's home at a meeting table - perhaps the dining room. Perhaps a little more description would cement what sort of family this is by the objects in the room. Do they have weapons on the wall? maybe late rent-payer heads? :) It could also be a way to separate Ellliet as being fundamentally better than the rest "I've always hated that they killed Poor Mr. Beejuz and mounted his head. He was a nice old man... blah blah..."

I like your wit, and the easy way your text flows. This was a somewhat long chapter, but I didn't feel like I was being dragged along unwillingly down the lines. You have effective dialogue that gives a clear indication of personalities and how they relate.

All in all you have a promising book.

Nancy Lopez wrote 640 days ago

Club Grimiore review:

Hi, Rachel,

I laughed when I read in your long pitch Elliot Regan: a cross dressser and an assasin. Very funny humor.
This chapter 1 flows and it reads as though you know where you want to take the reader.
I liked the surprise with Amelia and the way the mother reacted.
Your characters were easily relatable. I admit I no nothing of Steampunk nor how it is to be written so I just read for the enjoyable quality of it and findin typos of such.
If there were any, I found none.

I liked you opening line. it was aired with mystery as to why this meeting was a bad thing.
All in all, good writing, looking foward to our chapter 2 review thread to see where you take this.

Backward Glances

kshaw wrote 659 days ago

Hi Rachel,
Sorry it took me a bit to get to your story. Sadly, I only had time to read the first chapter, but I'll definitely be back to read more. I love the concept and I'm a sucker for a great steampunk adventure. There are so few of us writing it (especially women) so I love to come across one like yours.
I love the family dynamic, your dialogue is witty and sharp. Your pacing is nice and I already have a sense of who's who in your story. At first the names of the siblings were confusing because they are so similar, but then it grew on me because a lot of parents do that. So I think its quaint and believable.
Here are some of my notes:
Usually its a no no to put numbers in text, but I think in your case, because there are so many numbers you should represent them in the dollar amount. Ex: $1,408 My eyes crossed a little when I saw all the numbers spelled out lol
There are some grammatical errors in here, but nothing too distracting.
Overall, I think this is a great start and I'm looking forward to reading more. Also, thank you again for your wonderful comments on Philosophia. I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
Kayla Shaw

liberscriptus wrote 731 days ago

Hi Rachel,

I read chapters 7,8,9, and 10 like you asked, and I think you've got a very enjoyable story here. Even though I was jumping in and was slightly disoriented at first (although the summary you gave me was very helpful), it was easy to slide right into the universe you created. You have a great imagination, and the detail with which you describe your world is fantastic.

In fact, I think one of the strongest parts of your narrative are the bits where Elliet breaks off from the action to describe some little detail that happens to be flitting through his mind, like the bit about Aionese architecture. I know a lot of readers will probably disagree with me here and say that action scenes should be fast-paced and suspenseful, but because you write in your character's voice in the past tense, I think it actually works really well. Too many action scenes rely on fear and tension alone, so your use of quirky details really color the scene and make it stand out. It reminds me a bit of Douglas Adams for some reason (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). If anything, I think it would be interesting to hear more internal commentary from Elliet. Since he's presumably telling the story from the future, when he's looking back on the events of the book, it would make sense for him to insert a few thoughts here and there.

There are a handful of nitpicks, although I lost track of most of them. Here are the two I remember:

"not something I really wanted to think about, it was too depressing" should have a semicolon instead of a comma (I think this was in chapter 8)

"was entirely illogical; based on a myth" should have a comma instead of a semicolon (same chapter as the above)

There were a few more instances of minor typos, but overall your sentence structure and grammar are very good. You do a good job with characterization as well. Lizzie really springs from the page during her scenes, and Parsman comes off as thoroughly unlikable, which I'm guessing was your goal. He's the kind of villain that the reader would love to see the hero defeat, which is great whether Elliet ends up beating him up or having to work with him. I find that even though the plot is what "sells" a book, the character dynamics are really what keep a story going once you're actually reading it, so kudos on having both.

One thing I noticed was that you mentioned in your summary that Elliet can feel the emotions of others, but I didn't see very much of that in these four chapters. Again, it could be because I'm jumping in at chapter 7 and that at this point, it's already been established and doesn't need to be mentioned. Just an aside.

Anyway, I think you have a very impressive story here. The "voice" you write with is very unique, as is the alternate universe your story is set in. Highly starred, and I wish you the best of luck!

Astral Sea: The Pandora Project

David Southam wrote 765 days ago

This is a very enjoyable read.
You've created a full and interesting world, complete with a vividly-imagined culture and history, which makes for a brilliant fantasy tale. Your characters are also colourful and interesting.

I loved your pitch. You have a great first line too, the importance of which should not be underestimated. Fantastic writing continues through the first few chapters.
This is great work, and I am happy to back it.

David Southam
Author of The Keeper of the Sightless Eye

ChazWood wrote 811 days ago

Oh and one other thing - the pitch comes across as somewhat clunky. Aim for shorter, and more expressive, sentences. Pitches are hell to write - I know this for a fact, and they ought to be crafted carefully and with the best possible words in as little space as possible. Minds may wander if the sentences are too long. That's my only criticism - and only because I fear it may put some browsers off from exploring further.

Oh, and nice to see some British spellings in effect, also. :)

ChazWood wrote 811 days ago

Now, this *is* interesting. The names are intriguing and sense of otherworldly atmosphere, and setting, is invoked very well. I'm not noticing any genre cliches here, which is good. It comes across to me that you have a pretty firm grasp of how your world is constructed. I'll be coming back for more. Rated.

Best wishes,


ChazWood wrote 823 days ago

Recommended to me by AEsop as I write illustrated steampunk fantasy novels myself.

Look forward to getting into this one.


David J Baron wrote 836 days ago

Hi Rachel

Will definitively have a nose through this as I have a few spaces on my book shelf and WL. Would you be so kind as to have a quick look at my book - The List. Feel free to leave a comment.
ta very much.

David J Baron

mick hanson wrote 839 days ago

It is rather a complex web of intrigue and chaotic goings on with all characters very well drawn. I think if I have any criticism it would be the complexities of the many relationships, particularly of those sitting around the table at the meeting of the family. (I just couldn't follow it) I'm sure it would be difficult to resolve this situation because of course it would mean a complete re-write, and I'm certain that would not be undertaken because of one person's struggle to understand. But the thought did cross my mind, and if you don't mind me mentioning it, are they all needed in order for the story to go forward? And also, just a thought, if this is another universe then why are all the traits of the persons involved so far, very similar to those of the English aristocracy, i.e. mansions, butlers, language, eccentric aunts, manners, etc.
You were spot on when you mentioned that our books were completely different :) regards Mick

Heliopolis wrote 847 days ago

Very good example of the genre.

Su Dan wrote 851 days ago

l love your style, it's original and works very well for this story...l like the way you made 'deadpan' into a verb;- six stars******

Roman N Marek wrote 852 days ago

I wasn’t sure about this until I reached Ch.2 where the story became really interesting with the meeting with the police inspector. I thought the encounter was great, and held out the promise of a battle of wits in chapters to come. The meeting with Lizelba was curious and fascinating, too. The writing is very smooth and readable and the world has been very carefully thought out, with plenty of background detail that one can immerse oneself in. The more one reads, the stranger and more compelling it becomes.

While the first chapter is interesting, it is just an account of a meeting. It doesn’t provide much in the way of story or indicate the direction the story may be heading. Perhaps it could be cut a little to speed things along.

For me, the most interesting parts of the first chapter were the mention of ‘body-counts’ and the fact that Elliet is an assassin and has already polished off a number of targets. I thought both aspects could be brought out more. There were many people around the table, and I felt it difficult to keep track of them, and much back-story was related which I forgot fairly quickly.

I spotted a few typos. Ch.2: “loathe to part” should be “loath to part”; “Dore” should be “Doré”. Ch.3: “would have unwelcome” should be “would have been unwelcome”; “body ration” should be “body ratio”; “Paleontology” should be “Palaeontology”.

I think this shows good promise. Despite its slow start, once the story gets going it gets better and better. And the plot promised by the pitch sounds very intriguing. Good stuff.

Ariom Dahl wrote 855 days ago

This is delightfully offbeat and intriguing.

RK Summers wrote 855 days ago

What a strange but fantastic story :) I really enjoyed reading this, it's quirky and the characters are so unsual. Sci-fi isn't my strongest point, but I like steampunk fashion and this reminded me a little of Phillip Pullman and that sort of genre. Like an alternate 20th century, if you will.

I'll admit, I found the pacing in chapter 1 a little slow to start, but that just may be my opinion. Aside from that, I found nothing wong :)

Great plot, funny and very different, immensely enjoyable. Highly starred!

RK Summers
The Albion Pages

Yerwun wrote 857 days ago

Well I've now read the first four chapters, and have found them very entertaining.

Favourite aspects: A cross-dressing assasin isn't something you come across very often in books (or real life, as far as I know) but I never realised what a shame that was until now. The first-person narrative really makes this story, I think; Elliet's observations on things are just great. There's some good tongue-in-cheek humour in there that really works. I also love that they're a mob family who are actually kinda mob-y. Too often in fiction criminal families are portrayed as being way too close and affectionate to be believable, imo.

Criticisms: My only actual criticism would be that there's a tendency towards run on sentences. I know that starting sentences with ands and buts is often called grammatically suspect, but most writers do it and it can really help to break things up. Also, I know that first-person can make verb tense a bit of a mare at times, and there's one or two places where there's a bit of tense iffiness, but only one or two.

Random observations:
I really feel like I'm being kept in suspense about Elliet as a person; I'd love some more detail about his feelings and motivations. This isn't a criticism - the fact that I'm interested is a good sign about the writing.
What time period is this, exactly? I kept changing my mind as I read; eventually I settled on 1910s/20's.
Ghosts? Hmm...this threw me a bit in a sci-fi story, but I don't know where you're going with it so I'll reserve comment.
The pace seemed quite slow, but I didn't mind because the writing was interesting and entertaining. Still, just judging by your style, it wouldn't surprise me if there were a few scenes you could take out or summarise/condense, if you really needed to speed up the plot or cut down the wordage.

Hope you find this useful, and don't be surprised if you see another comment from me in a week or two, once I've finished what's posted.

Sandor wrote 859 days ago


Here are some comments from chapter 1:

I will save all of the ego boosting fluff, except to say: I enjoyed it.

Regarding things that could possibly be improved I noticed two things, neither of which are terribly important, that could possibly help you.

First, Elliot is bored, Elliot has trouble listening, Elliot's mind wanders, Elliot doesn't want to be there, etc, etc, etc. All of these are saying the same thing, I think this could be cut down a little. We get it.

Second, when Elliot pulls out the gold and we suddenly find out he is a murderer for hire, I think you really ought to add a bit of information about who he murders, or for what reasons he does so. Personally I am really hoping that they were thugs and murderers themselves and people generally deserving of it. I think explaining this a little would go a long way towards creating a likable killer character.

Adding you to my shelf, will try to read more later.

MrKarats wrote 859 days ago


here for the promised read.

A gathering of a mob family with antennae! Haven't seen much of it around...:D So, although this is a sci-fi setting, you put in some realistic dialogue and real-life concerns (of mobs nevertheless). I enjoyed the first chapter, but not as much as I would have liked it if your prose were to be cleaned up. More on this later.

Elliet grew on my eyes as I read on, from a youngun pestered by his older brother to a skilled assassin. An excellent characterisation within a chapter's length. The same goes for Eldran and the mother. Aunt Dore was a fine -and intelligent- addition through whom we glanced at the past of the family.

In the short encounter of Elliet with Elzen -I think, but I'm not sure- is the first time we read about antennae... Even if that is not the first spot in the text where we find out about the unique outer characteristic of your characters, we certainly didn't get much information on it. When you mention that someone has antennae, you should know that at the same time you doubt every other normal attribute we possess... The same way you show us they are empathic you should confirm -somehow- whether they have two limbs for example. Or if their eyes are larger and bee-like. As a reader, I wondered if the antennae were the only thing "Extra", that's all.

On your prose. I'll give you an example of what you do many a times:
Chapter 2: "I don't think much else of any interest happened though, and when Mum announced that we could all congratulate ourselves on another productive meeting I was the first to stand up and try not to sigh with relief too loudly. Eldian returned to giving me a dirty look, so I may not have succeeded as well as I'd hoped there. Ah, well."

Here I would cut the part with Eldian as well as "Ah,well". You delay your story's flow with extra details that are supposed to sharpen the reader's experience, whereas they simply delay and soften it.
Also, in the above paragraph, there are minor errors. In capitals as it should be:
"...I was the first to stand up and TRIED not to.."
"Eldian returned AND GAVE me a..."
Also, the punctuation is a bit messy here and there (here for example the first comma should go after "and" and another is needed after "meeting")

I realize it is probably a first (unedited) draft and that you plan on working on it. In that context I strive to be as detailed as possible, in order to draw your attention to the things you should tend to. If I were you, I would read through the story with an eye for unnecessary information (like the one above). Trimming those will fasten the pace and make it smoother for the reader...

Of course, the above is only my take on the matter... and your take is much more important. Also, I want to say that "steampunk" is a valid term, describing a subgenre of the sci-fi fiction. Contrary to what Philthy commented on below.

All the best :)


Philthy wrote 860 days ago

Hi Rachel,

I’m here for our read swap. Sorry it’s taken me so long. Below are my findings/comments. They are, of course, my humble opinions, so take them for whatever they’re worth.

Might just be me, but what is a “steampunk?”

Not a bad short pitch, though it reads more like a synopsis. Still, intriguing and caught my interest.

Might be a British thing, so ignore me if that’s the case, but in America, it’s spelled paleontology.

So far I like the pitch, but it reads a bit like a light-hearted story or something comedic. Was that the intent?
I always hesitate to start a new paragraph with “But” or “However.”

Don’t need to say “they live on”

“soldiers operating aircraft far in advance of anything either of them has ever seen…” This is wordy, clunky and confusing. “far in advance” suggests they’re doing something early, not that the aircrafts are an advanced technology.

All of paragraph two needs scrubbing. It gets tedious to read.

Two consecutive paragraphs starting with “but”

I absolutely love the premise, but if I’m being honest, I think the pitches need some heavy scrubs. Not atypical of pitches on Authonomy. They’re tough to write, and believe me, I don’t think mine is wonderful. Though I think (hope) it’s improved with the help of several insightful reviewers.

Chapter one

Do many tales of terror begin with a family reunion? Or are you being ironic?

Careful not to overthink names of places or people. If the reader has to do a double-take in order to pronounce it correctly, it might be worth reconsidering the name.

“They weren’t, of course, said city in all likelihood had never…” Is there an extra word or two in there? I can’t follow this.

Again, the premise is wonderful, and I LOVE your voice. The dialogue is strong, too. My biggest advice is to read this aloud, maybe even record yourself, because the readability gets tedious at times. There seems to be a lot crammed into some sentences. Not a tough fix, but something to look at. Also, be careful about beginning your story by dumping back story rather than taking the opportunity to pull the reader in and filling in the gaps in the story as you move onward with the scene.

Just some suggestions. There really is a lot of great stuff here and I anticipate that, with a bit of cleanup (as we all have to do), this will do well on Authonomy. As I said, the story is great! Haven’t read much out there like it (if anything), and I love your voice.

Best of luck!

(Deshay of the Woods)