A sequel to Mainspring (2007), Lake’s theological steampunk fantasy debut.
The brass trackway that carries the Earth in its clockwork courses lies atop a hundred-mile high Equatorial Wall. In the northern hemisphere, two great empires, Chinese and British, vie for superiority; enticingly to both, the southern hemisphere is an utter mystery. Young adolescent Wall-dwelling supergenius Paolina meets ship’s boy Clarence Davies: in the previous book, he fell overboard from an English airship, Bassett, and somehow managed to survive. Inspired by Clarence’s marine chronometer, Paolina constructs what amounts to a master control for the universe and sets forth to meet the wizards she imagines run the British Empire. Meanwhile, another survivor from the Bassett, chief Threadgill Angus al-Wazir, receives orders from Prime Minister Lloyd George to escort a gigantic mining machine to the Wall and attempt to drill through to the other side. Elsewhere, Connecticut librarian Emily McHenry Childress, member of the avebianco secret society, receives orders to take ship for Europe, aware that she is being punished for helping the hero of the previous book. Soon, though, a Chinese submarine sinks the ship and captures Childress—not, she comes to understand, by accident. These three plotlines eventually intertwine.
Dazzlingly constructed, appealingly populated and often fascinating—but is it really possible to suspend disbelief in a universe that’s literally a divinely constructed mechanism? Discuss.