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REVIEW: Tinker by Wen Spencer

Dear Ms. Spencer:

Tinker (Baen Fantasy)This was a library book and while it is much more romantic and erotic than the Ukiah Oregon books, it was very confusing. Tinker features a heroine of the same name, derived from her full name (Alexander Graham Bell) and her skills (an 18 year old female genuis). She was created through the manipulation of ovum and seed by her grandfather. I didn’t quite understand where she gestated but in any event, Tinker is a completely scientific being. She owns a scrap and salvage yard in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is a city that spends part of its time on Elfhome and part on Earth. Every 28 days, Pittsburgh returns to Earth – it is called Shutdown and it lasts for 24 hours. During Shutdown, an elf runs into her scrapyard being chased by magical beings – Foo dogs. (part of the myth in this story deals with Japanese mythology). The elf is Windwolf, an elf who Tinker wrangled with years before. She believes that she has a life bond with him and that if Windwolf dies, so does she. She fights the Foo dogs and saves Windwolf.

Because of a college entrance exam, it is determined that Tinker has the ability to build a hyperphase gate. This gate allows regular transitions between parallel worlds – such as Earth and Elfhome. There is currently a hyperphase gate run by the Chinese that allows Pittsburgh to transition from Earth and Elfhome, but it is faulty and requires the Shutdown. This knowledge that Tinker has leads her to become a tool in a fight between Earth forces (NSA, for example) and the oni – Japanese demons. The world building is fairly scientific and even though I read slowly, I didn’t quite understand all the concepts.

Throughout the story, Tinker is displayed as a true genius – one who is brilliant but lacks any social skills. This leads her to hurt someone close to her and it is easy for her to be hurt in return.

On a romantic note, Tinker has quite a few sexual feelings for more than one character, but it seemed reasonable given her age (18). I read on one review that the “sex is entertaining, though there may be rather alot of it for some reader’s taste.” The reviewer must not have been a romance reader since I thought the sex scenes were rather tame. Tinker’s true love, of course, is Windwolf, and given the subject matter, the blend of romance, fantasy and science fiction, this book was revelatory but flawed. The blend of science and magic could have been better explained, even after a re-reading I wasn’t quite sure what how the world worked. Despite my confusion, it was a fresh story then and still remains a fresh story. I liked it enough to buy my own copy after I returned the library one. B

Best regards,


You can buy the paper copy at Amazon or in e-form at Baen.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. AAR Rachel
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 14:42:02

    I really liked this one too and have been wanting to get my own copy for awhile.

  2. brwngem
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 17:31:02

    I love Wen Spencer! The second book in this series is pretty good. I also loved A Brother’s Price.

  3. LesleyW
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 17:47:54

    Wen Spencer is one of my favourite authors. You do have to concentrate when reading her books, and some of the stuff I just think I’m going to accept that and go with it.

    So far she hasn’t written a book that I haven’t enjoyed. I’m curious to see how I fare with Endless Blue (due for release in December) as this seems to be science fiction. And I hope it’s not going to go over my head.

    I like the fact that she doesn’t constrain herself. The Ukiah books were urban fantasy, although Tinker is kind of urban fantasy it feels more like traditional fantasy because of all the elvish customs. Then she writes A Brother’s Price which is a very romantic almost alternative history fantasy.

  4. Karen
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 18:17:40

    I love Wen Spencer. I just finished the second book in this series, “Wolf Who Rules” I believe is the name. The technical science aspects of it were quite intense, however I still enjoyed the read.

  5. Keishon
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 20:33:42

    I love her Ukiah Oregon books.

  6. Allie
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 23:38:35

    Sweet! I am so glad this got a decent review. I just recently saw this book on amazon when I looked up urban fantasy and it really sounded interesting. Thanks for reviewing it.

  7. Estelle
    Aug 18, 2007 @ 02:33:26

    I liked this one too. But I haven’t read the second book and am still undecided as to whether I will or not. I heard some stuff that put me off it. Will you be doing a review Jane by any chance?

  8. May
    Aug 18, 2007 @ 10:35:19

    I’ve not read this, only A Brother’s Price, and I think this is next on my Spencer list. Somehow, I’m not interested in the Ukiah book.

  9. Jane
    Aug 18, 2007 @ 14:47:47

    I did review the sequel and was pretty disappointed by it. I felt like Tinker had gone through a personality change, the plot line meandered all over the place.

    link here

  10. veinglory
    Aug 18, 2007 @ 15:20:29

    There are some fresh ideas but about half way through the heroine seems to just be brow-beaten/tricked and falls in line to the alpha male as usual, so I stopped reading. I still live in hopes of finding a few more books about a plucky/brilliant herione falling for a man who is *not* more powerful and does *not* overpower and/or trick her into the relationship. Suggestions welcome.

  11. Meljean
    Aug 18, 2007 @ 20:20:25

    I loved this book but have been afraid to pick up the sequel. (I have a feeling that as soon as I get around to reading Twilight, it’ll be the same thing: just letting the good feelings rest on the first book, because reviews of subsequent books tell me that there are Things That Will Get On My Nerves.)

    But TINKER, I thought, was fun and imaginative, with just the right mix of humor and the dark/icky — and I loved all of the geeky aspects of it, from the science to the heavy dose of Japanese mythology threaded through.

  12. Jennifer
    Aug 18, 2007 @ 21:19:29

    This review was enough to make me realize that I’m going to put Spencer on my permanent pass list because I hated her first two Ukiah Oregon books and it seems like the problem I had with those is repeated here, plus I really hate the heroine must always be shown to be weaker than the alpha hero plot device.

  13. Jennifer
    Aug 18, 2007 @ 21:20:04

    Sorry, double post because my internet connection is still wonky after a power failure earlier today.

  14. Bryan
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 22:39:11

    Surely it isn’t Tinker falling for the alpha male but rather the alpha male falling for Tinker. He falls for her bravery, her brains and her ability to get the impossible done. Being swept off her feet by a handsome, rich and powerful prince may be a bit of a cliche but will always be a staple of fairy tale romance, the difference here being that Tinker comes out as the one who is the dominant half of the couple.
    The science is no problem for anyone who reads or watches plenty of science fiction, and as for the mentioned personality change in the sequel that is dealt with in the book.
    Both tinker and wolf who rules are not the best written books in the world but are not bad. They are one of the best stories i’ve ever read and contain wonderful characters i really feel affection for.

  15. angel hodges
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 07:07:23

    i wish to one day may two of your stories into an anime and manga.

  16. JayneG
    Dec 28, 2009 @ 08:25:36

    Hi, Jane- I just finished both Tinker and WWR and found your review. I agree with much of what you said. I have to say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed both books despite any flaws. The first was probably the best in terms of plot– I agree that the second felt like it wandered a bit more. And you are right on that Tinker emerges as a Mary Sue in the second book. However, Tinker’s character also seems less central in the second book in a way– what I enjoyed more was the development of the world Wen Spencer created. Finding out more about how elfin society works, the relationship between the sekasha and domana classes, the history of the tengus, the oni dragons, etc. Secondary characters become more interesting and more important, such as Stormsong. Other great characters, like Oilcan and Lain, felt neglected, however. And we never really found out what was the deal with Tooloo.

    The jumbled dream imagery made sense when you figure that the images were sent to her by human and tengu dreamers, all of whom were brought up on earth. However, since the tengu were raised as Chinese, you’d think there’d be some Chinese imagery mixed in, wouldn’t you? The plot was a tad confusing but the book was so fun to read, I’ll probably re-read to figure it out.

    The sexual relationships in elfin society are very different than human: elves don’t invest the same sort of possessive weight to sex that humans do. It doesn’t seem to matter if one has more than one lover- sex is something that is fun and to be shared. And the rules about sex between the classes are set up to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Very practical, actually. It made sense to me– and I saw Tinker’s confusing feelings for Pony as the effects of her elfin body warring with her human attitudes.

    Haven’t read anything else by Wen Spencer but I will definitely seek her out now.

  17. Jane
    Dec 28, 2009 @ 08:27:50

    @JayneG: I haven’t read much by Wen Spencer either other than the Ukiah Oregon series. It’s been such a long time since I’ve read even that series though. For some reason, I’ve kind of left this author behind, unintentionally I think.

    If you read something by her and like it, please let me know.

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