During two years near the end of the 14th century, the events in a young woman's life mirror the forces that will strengthen towns with their artisans and commercial ventures against feudal lords and the church. Bosse crams an incredible amount of action and well-researched information into his story, all of it germane to his design (though he does use an India robber eraser 400 years too early). Orphaned by a raid on their father's paper mill by marauding soldiers, Anne (16) and her brother make a dangerous journey to an uncle--an ex-monk, armorer, and clockmaker. When Anne proves to be a gifted draftsman, he shares his work and philosophy with her; after he, too, is killed, she spends months as a serving maid before she finds someone who is willing to utilize her talent in clockmaking even though she is a woman. The kaleidoscope of characters includes a quixotic would-be knight with whom Anne has a brief idyll; mute brother Niklas, a gifted woodcarver; and a host of others from all walks of life, quickly but vividly drawn. Anne herself is less than fully realized, distanced from the reader by her dispassionate narrative voice, which lacks a hypothetical audience. The ever-present violence and death of the times is graphically but authentically portrayed, including gruesome murders, rape of both sexes, and pestilence. There is no question that the message is antiviolent; but it is not for the weak of stomach. At the book's heart is the idea of the clock; Anne reasons that, like God, it has the ability to organize time. The details of early clock design and the effect of clocks on social history are fascinating; the idea that time could now be measured, bought, and sold was radical enough to provoke a riot. Grief-stricken by one more in a long series of losses, Anne at last despairs and loses faith; but the chance to continue her work saves her--a satisfyingly feminist conclusion. A complex, beautifully wrought portrait of the medieval world on the verge of change.