“Two o’clock was missing.”
A lost hour can be catastrophic in an alternate Victorian England where the ancient clock towers actually regulate the temporal flow. At 17, Danny Hart is the youngest clock mechanic on record, with the innate ability to sense the realm of time. Depressed and guilty after his father was trapped in a time-Stopped city and also plagued with panic attacks and nightmares from a near-fatal accident on the job, Danny is desperate to excel at this current assignment—but his work is complicated by a passionate, mutual, and absolutely forbidden attraction to the clock’s handsome tutelary spirit. Meanwhile, the campaign of protests and sabotage against the clock towers is turning deadly….This LGBTQ steampunk romance sports a killer premise and admirably thorough worldbuilding, helpfully annotated in the author’s afterword. The characters—even the bad guys—are sympathetically drawn and commendably diverse in sexuality and gender (the one non–Anglo-Saxon character, a blonde woman with a half-Indian father, demonstrates the slipperiness of ethnic and racial identity). Unfortunately, the execution of the narrative is awkward at best. The prose alternates between stilted lyricism and flat-footed exposition and is marred by clumsy word choices and jarring shifts in perspective. The plot meanders at a frustrating pace, relying on implausible coincidences, only to start hurtling madly near the end to a quite literal deus ex machina climax.
The numerous mysteries left unsolved point to potential sequels; here’s hoping that their craftsmanship lives up to the concept. (Steampunk. 14-18)