Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Dawn of Steam

Go To
Dawn of Steam is a trilogy of alternate history/Steam Punk novels and associated short stories written by Jeffrey Cook and Sarah Symonds.

In 1815, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, two of England's wealthiest lords place a high-stakes wager on whether a popular set of books, which claim that the author, Dr. Robert Bowe, has travelled to many unknown corners of the globe, are fact or fiction. To this end former soldier and aide-de-camp Gregory Conan Watts is tasked with recruiting a band of adventurers and chronicling their progress around the globe as they aim to prove the truth once and for all. Along the way they have to contend with a rival expedition, out to thwart them at any cost and by any means necessary, hostile geography and even the weather itself as they must brave the so called year without summer.

Together this intrepid band of adventurers will blaze a trail across the world that will lay the foundations for a new age of technological advancement and enlightenment that is to come.


The books which comprise the main trilogy are:

  • First Light (2014)
  • Gods of the Sun (2014)
  • Rising Suns (2015)

Additionally there are two short stories set after the main trilogy:

  • The Rat King (published in Free-flowing Stories)
  • Voodoo Murders (Tbd)

Dawn of Steam contains examples of:

  • Action Dress Rip: Assassins intent on killing the French monarch attack a ball the crew of the Dame Fortuna attending, Sam Bowe shreds her skirts for easier movement. Since she hates wearing the dress in the first place, she takes great pleasure in destroying it over the course of the battle until she is left in nothing but her underclothes by the aftermath.
  • Action Girl:
    • Sam Bowe is a daughter of the American Wild West. She can kill gunmen with knives.
    • Jillian Coltrane is the true operator of the Coltrane suit of metal armor.
  • Amazon Chaser: After it is revealed that Jillian, not James, was the one in the battle suit, Eddy falls in love with her because it proved that she was not, in his words "an intelligent but mostly useless decoration".
  • Advertisement:
  • Badass Bookworm: James Coltrane inventor and pilot of the Coltrane Battlesuitor perhaps more accurately Jillian.
  • Badass Grandpa: Captain Fisher is an old man who literally ties himself to his ship’s wheel to see if safely through one of the worst storms he’s ever seen.
  • Badass Crew: The band aboard the Dame Fortuna starts of with some of Britan’s greatest war heroes and continues to picks up other action heroes along the way.
  • Ballroom Blitz: A party for the visiting French Monarch is crashed by assassins, forcing the crew to fight in their formal wear (and fewer weapons).
  • The Bet: A high stakes wager in the House of Lords kicks off the plot. They want to know if Dr. Robert Bowe's journal is a work of fiction or not.
  • Brain Uploading: Sam’s ornithopter companion, Bubsy, contains the mind of a sheepdog. More horrifyingly, the cause of death for Mrs Mitchell was an attempt at this.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Matthew Fisher-Swift in the original trilogy is a kid equipped with a sling.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Eddy McBride is a rifle expert and a war hero: who just happens to be very, very picky about how he's addressed.
  • Cool Airship: Plenty. A flotilla of airships is part of the reason for the British Empire’s dominance and victory in the Napoleonic War. Then there is the Dame Fortuna, a customised drop ship for the Coltrane Battlesuit, on which the heroes travel the world.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The Coltrane battle suit can turn the tide of any battle but its control system is so hard to learn that only its designer can operate it effectively.
  • Distressed Dude: For most of the second book, James Coltrane is held captive.
  • Dawn of the Wild West: The period the original trilogy takes place in is the exploration of the American west. The last third of First Light, in particular, takes place on the American Frontier.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Sam Bowe can easily wipe the floor with most assailants using her knives. Unfortunately, she’s stuffed into a restrictive dress and corsets when she comes under attack at a ball.
  • Dynamic Entry: The favoured method of deployment for the Coltrane Battle suit – being dropped on the adversary from the Dame Fortuna.
  • Epistolary Novel: The vast majority of the original trilogy is depicted through the letters and journal entries of Gregory Conan Watts with the occasional input of other characters throughout the series.
  • English Rose: Jillian is the very archetype of an English lady; polite, elegant, refined, generous etc.
  • Footnote Fever: Cordelia often breaks into the flow of the narrative to explain certain parts of the setting to the reader or to add additional depth to the story.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The framing device with Cordelia indicates a number of characters will survive the events of the main narrative. It also confirms before hand that she and Gregory marry when it's all over.
  • Fork Fencing: Sam Bowe’s preferred method of improvised weaponry tends to be whatever cutlery she can get her hands on at any given moment.
  • Friendly Sniper: Boisterous Bruiser Edward ‘Call Me Eddy” Mc Bride; at least if you’re on his good side.
  • The Ghost: Dr. Robert Bowe is yet to appear on page, but his existance and exploits have a large impact on the story of the main trilogy.
  • Happily Married: According to her commentary, Gregory and Cordelia end up as this too. They're together for decades, until he died of old age, and her entries speak well of him.
  • The Klutz: Harriet is useless with anything not related to mechanics. In her first act alone, she dirties her sleeves by dragging them through butter while imitating her cousin.
  • Knife Nut: Sam Bowe eschews guns preferring to use her myriad collection of knives.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr Mitchell is a scientist so crazed he’s been ostracised by the setting’s other mad scientists and is now forced to live in seclusion in a cove full of technological marvels he’s created.
  • Officer and a Gentleman:
    • James Coltrane to a tee as he is a war hero that has retired to inventing and is still active in social circles.
    • Gregory and Eddy to varying degrees as both of them were soldiers but the former lacks James' presence and the latter is somewhat quirky.
  • Powered Armour: The Coltrane Battlesuit is a nine foot tall steam-powered bulletproof behemoth that fires rockets, can bend steel and jump higher than a house.
  • Proper Lady:
    • Jillian Coltrane runs the Coltrane estate with all the grace of an English Rose.
    • Harriet very much wishes to be this and is often copying Jillian's every move.
    • Sam Bowes vehemently is not this trope.
    • Mrs Fisher has made it her goal to ensure that every woman on the crew should behave like this. She critiques Harriet's behavior and makes every effort to make Sam comply.
  • Regency England: The original trilogy takes place in the aftermath of the Napoleonic War.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Dr. Robert Bowe’s son Sam Bowe, whom the crew are sent to employ as a guide, turns out to be Samantha Bowe. In a more literal example it turns out that the designer and pilot of the Coltrane Battlesuit is Jillian and not James.
  • Shipper on Deck: Jillian for Eddy and Harriet. She's determined to see her cousin married to the Scottsman because he's a man of fame, fortune, and most importantly, loves her. Ironically, she marries him herself by the end of Gods of the Sun. Harriet wasn't interested in him anyway.
  • Steam Punk: The main part of the series is set a little bit before the usual period for Steampunk but employs plenty of expected tropes such as airships and powered armor. By Cordelia’s time, England seems to have more fully embraced this trope.
  • Supporting Protagonist: The original trilogy is narrated mostly from Gregory's point of view as he's the one recording it for posterity. He tends to act as a supporting character to the plot.
  • Tank Goodness: A steam tank, no less, is employed to combat the Coltrane Basttlesuit.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Sam is the tomboy to Jillian’s girly girl because the former is a resident of the American Frontier and the later is a lady of England High Society. This causes much intra-crew conflict. As it turns out, Jillian is more tomboyish than everyone thought; she is the true Coltrane war hero because she was the one in the battle suit and would rather be in her workshop than a tea party.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Julietta keeps a stiletto knife here amongst other things.
  • Worf Effect: Franzini is repeatedly reported to have the fastest hands that Gregory has ever seen. However, whenever this trait comes up in context it is always to show that someone is faster than he. This is particularly notable during Sam Bowe’s Establishing Character Moment.
  • Wrench Wench: Harriet Wright is a mechanical savant who can build or repair anything she has taken apart or seen the instructions or plans for.


Example of: