A young woman is drawn into a secret society of inventors in this derivative debut.
Meg Whitlock, a merchant’s daughter, is forced to take a job as a housemaid when her parents are killed in a fire. The only thing she has left of them is a disguised clockwork key. Through a series of tediously convenient coincidences, she discovers that her family were all members of the Secret Order of Modern Amusmentists, an organization that created clockwork creatures for their own pleasure. The key is the only object that will allow Meg to finish the job her parents started: destroying a time machine built by Lord Rathford, an Amusmentist gone rogue. With the help of handsome stable boy Will and sympathetic Amusmentists Oliver and Lucinda, Meg uses the key to activate a series of automatons that each hold clues to the location of the time machine. Rathford’s other opponents have all turned up dead, but even the suspense of Meg’s potential demise is not enough to overcome lines like “If I had died in that moment, I wouldn’t have noticed, because heaven couldn’t have been any more wonderful than the feeling in my heart.” True aficionados of steampunk will find this simplistic tale far too tame for their tastes, but readers new to the subgenre may exit the pages with a basic understanding of the convention’s quasi-Victorian world in spite of the limp linear plot, clichéd prose and stock characterizations.
Mediocre. (Steampunk. 12 & up)