Island of Icarus by Christine Danse
Our story opens in clutter as Jonathan sorts through the things in his office that he hasn't gotten around to putting away, even a year after being in his position at the university. With it, Danse shows the reader the life Jonathan is living, disorganized mentally as he struggles to overcome the shadows of his past while dealing with his new limitations, mainly that of a mangled arm that has a clockwork replacement. Although this is a first person perspective, we are not overwhelmed with angst or emotion, as our narrator is stoically Victorian British and a scientist, which is a refreshing difference from the emotional rides that some stories focus on.
Instead, Island of Icarus is a study of man, of determination, and of creating one's own fate. Although initiated through someone else's will, Jonathan's growth through the novel gives him a spine to make his own decisions and the confidence to follow through.
Steampunk. Danse did a very nice job of creating a lightly steampunk atmosphere without short-changing the reader. She included steampunk elements (clockwork, mechanics, Victorian era), without making it a true steampunk piece of writing (aka, heavy with mechanics/steam engineering). True enthusiasts of this genre may feel it doesn't fit the style, but it's present enough to pass.
Characters. We have our classic Victorian educated man, Jonathan, who has suffered injury and heart break and has been marooned on an island with Marcus, a dashing American who is ambitious, crafty and a genius. Even though he is a genius, he's not socially inept, and yet he has isolated himself on this island. Of course the reader knows it's about more than wanting time to work on his project.
Writing. It was enjoyable, and led me to discover that "wow" is not a modern term (I initially thought it was an anachronism within the novel), but dates back to the 1500s. The novel seemed fairly well researched, both of the time period and the mechanics of clockwork gears and flight.
Beach Sex. There are at least two places you don't want to be naked and rolling around. The beach and in hay. Thankfully the sex didn't involve penetration, but sex on the beach is just a bad idea generally. But I guess when it's all very instantaneous, you don't want your lover to run off because he's changed his mind.
Title. Icarus is the son of a craftsman who, along with his father, used wax and feather wings to escape the island they were imprisoned on. Ignoring his father's warning, Icarus flies too close to the sun, melting the wax and falling to his death. Perhaps it should have been titled Island of Daedalus, since Marcus is the craftsman. There is also some issues that Marcus doesn't really want to leave the island as Daedalus and Icarus did, although he does show some reckless behaviors like that of a young boy (Icarus) which requires Jon to rescue him. I like the basic concept of the novel being called Island of Icarus since there are wings involved, but I'm not sure it's appropriate.
While I enjoyed the story overall, I was never enthralled with the characters or the plot, never motivated to keep reading to see what happened next. If you're looking for something mellow to read, this would be a good choice. If you're in the mood for something a bit more adventurous or emotional, I wouldn't start here.