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A Poignant and Provocative Transylvanian Story - an Editorial Review of "The Soul Machines"

Book Blurb:

This story opens on a burgeoning mining town in Transylvania during the fading years of the 19th century. Life goes on uneventfully, save for the occasional trouble caused by the greedy local baron. Three young men—a poor Romanian, a gypsy, and a rich Hungarian—are bound by a strong friendship that is frowned upon by the town elite. During a trip to the baron's forbidden lands, one of the men discovers a mysterious artifact that symbolizes humanity's evil nature, bringing out the worst in people, particularly those predisposed to wrongdoings. Far right extremists, socialists, and an order of Christian Orthodox monks vie to get their hands on it, which leads to a series of tragic events that disturb the town's peace. Murders, insanity, and suicide wreak havoc in the region. A wild chase and a fight for the possession of the artifact end up altering the mind of a boy who is bound to change the course of history. Meanwhile, a doomed love story begins between the young man who unearthed the artifact and a rich local girl who's already betrothed. The story takes place in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and spans an eclectic mix of fiction subgenres, including romance and mystery. Themes include the rise of extreme politics in Europe, feminism, and the conflict between religion and naturalism.

Recipient of:

  • Literary Titan Gold Award

  • International Firebird Book Award

  • Pinnacle Book Achievement Award

  • Book Nerdection Reviewers' Choice Award

  • BREW Fiction Book Excellence Award

  • Outstanding Creator Award

Book Buy Link:

Author Bio:

Alexandru Czimbor was born and raised in Transylvania, Romania, during the oppressive communist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu. He has lived in the United States since 2001, and spends his summers in Europe. Throughout his career, Alexandru taught at a Romanian university and worked in the software industry. He has been an executive since 2011. Alexandru has a Master’s Degree in computer science, with studies at UTCN Cluj-Napoca and ETH Zürich. He is passionate about the brain, consciousness and AI. Writing fiction novels allows Alexandru to bring to a more relaxed medium the wealth of knowledge cognitive science offers and renders him the chance to grow and to discover himself in a fulfilling and different way. When he is not working or writing, Alexandru mentors his son, plays guitar, reads, and listens relentlessly to podcasts.

Editorial Review:

Don’t panic! Tudor told himself, as the five patrol riders escaped the forest and steadily climbed the bare hill towards him. Half a dozen Komondor dogs surrounded them, whistle trained to go for the jugular of their prey.

I feel like a field rabbit, still in the face of danger, hoping that nobody will notice me. And this is how my life can easily go from bad to worse, the 17-year-old boy worried.

This story opens with mystique and excitement! It dives right in from the first two words: Don’t panic! And it wastes no time getting to the meat of the story. As the narrative unfolds against the picturesque backdrop of 19th century Transylvania, Czimbor delivers a compelling tale that is both poignant and provocative.

We learn about a burgeoning mining town in the fading years of the 19th century. It’s mostly an uneventful life for the people here, except for a greedy local baron who causes trouble now and then.

It carries us along for a compelling storyline. At the heart of this tale are three young men from diverse backgrounds – a testament to the book’s commitment to portraying intricate human relationships. A poor Romanian, a gypsy, and a rich Hungarian. Their discovery of a mysterious artifact acts as the catalyst, sending ripples of chaos throughout their community. The artifact, symbolizing humanity's dark side, challenges readers to introspect the inherent nature of good and evil.

Count Richter aligned his horse with the cart, and the two started their trip. Tudor was uncomfortable being so close to him. But the dirt road was very narrow, and he wasn’t sure under what pretext he could drop behind.

“To answer your first question, I arrived in this part of the world only yesterday. I came to these woods in search of old artifacts. You see, I’m a bit of a passionate archeologist,” the count volunteered more information, pointing to his small digging tools. Tudor kept quiet, wondering what could possibly make somebody of blue blood origin to look for the remains of another civilization, in the forests of Nagybánya.

As far as editing and formatting is concerned, the book is well done, professional, and easy to read. The book stands out not only for its rich content but also its polished presentation. The meticulous editing and coherent formatting make it a seamless read, effortlessly guiding the reader through its intricate web.

Where the story really shines for me is in the character development. Czimbor's genius is evident in his characters. They are fleshed out with exquisite detail, each having their distinct personality, aspirations, and fears. The transformation of the protagonists, especially Tudor, is noteworthy, with the character arcs being both believable and heart-rending.

I also really love how well-done the dialogue is in the story. It’s realistic, keeping in the times, and engaging.

“You’re pacing around like a bear in a cage,” Maria said, shivering as she was coming outside. “Perhaps you’re eager to catch a cold,” she chided him. “What could worry you so much? I heard you toss and turn in bed the whole night.”

Tudor looked at her for a long time. Though he could barely see her, her face in the shadow reminded him about how young she still was and how devastated she had been when his father had died.

“Today is Roli’s birthday. They have a lot of guests. Important folks. He asked me to help with the work at the party.”

“Ahem, so that’s why you got that fancy old suit at home. And…?”

“I’d like to go to his party. And help. But I’m afraid I’ll be humiliated if… the guests see me there.”

“Oh, for crying out loud!” his mom rolled her eyes. “Were you born yesterday? This is the way of the world. Some are rich and will die rich. We are poor and we’ll die poor. There’s no shame in that. You’d better get these thoughts out of your head, or you’ll suffer all your life.”

Tudor bit his answer back and, instead, searched up in the sky for a few seconds.

“Look…” his mom softened her tone. “Is this about a girl?”

Tudor winced at how perceptive she was, and instinctively moved aside. He wasn’t about to have this kind of conversation with his mother.

Continuity is important in any story, but especially so with historical fiction. It’s far too easy for the plot to get lost in the historical aspects, but this story keeps it all inline. The plot unfolds with impeccable continuity. Every event, every twist is interwoven meticulously, ensuring that readers remain hooked from start to finish.

What can make an enjoyable book even better besides a satisfying ending? Without giving away spoilers, the climax of "The Soul Machines" is an emotional roller-coaster. Whether you view it as heart-wrenching or cathartic, it leaves a lasting impression, prompting reflections long after the final page is turned. The ups and downs will keep you guessing throughout it all, but the ending will make you glad you stayed on the ride.

While many books have delved into the depths of human nature, "The Soul Machines" offers a fresh perspective. The blend of historical elements with mystery and romance, set against the unique backdrop of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, gives it an edge in originality.

Czimbor's writing is a treat. He crafts his sentences with elegance, providing just the right amount of detail to paint a vivid picture without overwhelming the reader. His mastery over language and historical nuances makes the story both authentic and captivating.

Seeing that the heavy snow fall was not about to stop, someone inside the coach uttered an unintelligible but harsh command, upon which the driver took a large umbrella and rushed to open the coach door. An elegant, imposing man stepped out and offered his hand to a lady. They both rushed inside under the umbrella. At the same time, a servant jumped out with a bigger umbrella from the house and accompanied two girls, who were giggling and talking loudly. The noise drew Tudor’s attention.

The trajectory of the plot is well-structured, with a harmonious balance of peaks and troughs. The evolution of the central conflict concerning the artifact, coupled with subplots like the forbidden romance, ensures that the narrative remains dynamic throughout.

"The Soul Machines" by Alexandru Czimbor is a gem in historical fiction. It's a testament to Czimbor's prowess as a storyteller and his ability to weave a tale that is both historically rich and universally relevant. For anyone seeking a riveting read that delves into the complexities of human nature, set against a backdrop of political upheaval and societal norms, this book is a must-read. Highly recommended!


“The Soul Machines” by Alexandru Czimbor receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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