Fantasy · Science Fiction

The Clockwork Dynasty – Daniel H. Wilson

3 Stars

I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. 

In my mind, the word “clockwork” in the title of a novel evokes an expectation of a steampunk novel. The Clockwork Dynasty isn’t a steampunk novel. Once I got over that mild disappointment, I found I really enjoyed the story.

In chapters alternating between the past and the present, and two different narrators, we follow the origins and struggle of automated human-like beings.

From the Amazon synopsis: 

Present day: When a young anthropologist specializing in ancient technology uncovers a terrible secret concealed in the workings of a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll, she is thrown into a hidden world that lurks just under the surface of our own. With her career and her life at stake, June Stefanov will ally with a remarkable traveler who exposes her to a reality she never imagined, as they embark on an around-the-world adventure and discover breathtaking secrets of the past…

Russia, 1725: In the depths of the Kremlin, the tsar’s loyal mechanician brings to life two astonishingly humanlike mechanical beings. Peter and Elena are a brother and sister fallen out of time, possessed with uncanny power, and destined to serve great empires. Struggling to blend into pre-Victorian society, they are pulled into a legendary war that has raged for centuries.

I really liked the two main characters. They had interesting internal struggles and felt well constructed. Peter has a much more fleshed out backstory since the past chapters are literally his backstory, so his character feels much more developed than June does, but June doesn’t feel flat in comparison.

The way the story bounced back and forth between present day and the past, combined with the “mysterious, ancient origins” of the automated beings reminded me heavily of the Assassin’s Creed video games.

I had a hard time with the pacing of the story. The present day sections are fast paced and move along quickly, but just as soon as something happens, a chapter break appears and the story slows down. The sections set in the past are slower going. They’re very valuable backstory, but they do disrupt the feverish pace of the present day storyline in a way I found frustrating at times.

A solid three-star story. It was a fun read but didn’t leave me with that “Aaah, that was so good” feeling.

The Clockwork Dynasty was published August 1, 2017.

Fantasy · YA

Ash and Quill – Rachel Caine

4 Stars

I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Like many bibliophiles, I have a soft spot in my heart for libraries. Because of this, I am always intrigued by stories set in, around, or about these great storehouses of knowledge. The Great Library series, by Rachel Caine is no exception to that attraction.

Caine has built a world in which the great library of Alexandria did not burn, and where the library’s reach is far and deep. Not only does the Library give of its scholarly discoveries but it also hoards information and power. Here is the beauty of the series – an exploration of what happens when the Library loses sight of its mission to be a storehouse of knowledge and crosses the line into a perversion of that mission into the land of censorship. Once that line is crossed, what lengths will the Library go to in order to preserve its own power?

As dry as that idea may sound, Caine folds it into an addictive series with realistic well-crafted characters, a twisty plot, and a dash of romance. The story follows a group of former Library employees as they struggle against the Library’s machinations. At times the story feels a little predictable, but Caine makes up for it by dropping in surprising twists. The third installment doesn’t suffer from “middle-book syndrome” like other mid-series books sometimes can. The story clips along at a nice pace and has its own distinct goal to achieve and its own satisfying ending. A short-lived ending, of course, because the book must set up for the next installment in the series.

I read Ash and Quill in one evening and am very much looking forward to the next installment.

Ash and Quill is the third in The Great Library series by Rachel Caine and was published July 11, 2017.

Fantasy

The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin

3 Stars

NK Jemisin’s forte is novels with a slow, precise pace and non-linear storytelling. As her characters and the plot creep forward, realizations start to hit you like heavy bricks. As you start to get a handle on what’s happening, the creeping plot begins to speed up and the significance of events becomes clearer. You’ll start to make connections between the threads she’s woven in the story around you.

All that being said, The Fifth Season was slow, up until the final 30% of the book. It starts grim, stays grim and ends grim. I wouldn’t call it dark, but it’s definitely grim. There’s literally a section of the book that says (paraphrasing) “here is a part of your life that’s happy – we’re going to skip over it and get back to the grim stuff.”

The writing is beautiful and the characters are interesting. It’s a well-crafted novel, but it’s not ever going to be my favorite.

The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth series.

Review originally published on Goodreads May 22, 2017.