THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER by Beth Cato

THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In a debut that promises to be the first of two novels set in this world, Cato introduces a likable heroine and a serviceably imagined steampunk fantasy painted with broad strokes of magic and political intrigue.

Octavia Leander is a young healer, a “medician,” whose magical ability to heal is extraordinary even in a world flush with airships, chimeras, and the expected steampunk trappings of clockwork science and unusual magic systems. Her journey to a new life as the resident healer of a small country town takes her onto the airship Argus, where unlikely plots and assassination attempts pull her deep into the troubles of a country suffering from the effects of war. The companions she collects in her travels are, unsurprisingly, not what they seem, and Cato employs many conventions of fantasy adventure to set the story in motion: a kidnapped princess, elite spies, a patchwork religion and an enthusiastic embrace of simple romance. The characters Octavia meets are appealing in an exaggerated way; the plot is often graceless but has the undeniable ability to encourage the dogged turning of pages. While the narration is sometimes tripped up by awkward shifts into Octavia’s interior monologue and swathes of absurd description—like the comparison of a woman’s bosom to “planets of flesh that hovered above an unblemished satin sky”—it gains a prickly insistence from a depiction of magic that depends on sacrifice as well as power. The magic in this world does not always arrive without a price, and that gives it a depth that would otherwise be missing.

A light read that suffers from heavy-handed prose but may offer an interesting new world to readers who enjoy the flavor of steampunk fantasy and soap-opera intrigue.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-231384-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2014




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