When Brooke Johnson approached me about reviewing her YA steampunk novel, The Clockwork Giant, I was immediately drawn to the concept. I’m a sucker for steampunk and strong female protagonists, and I couldn’t help asking myself why someone would build a giant. At the time, I was solidly booked with reviews, but Brooke is very patient and I’m glad because this novel was well worth the wait. Not only do I get to share it with you but she’s provided a copy that you can enter to win!
It’s 1881 and Chroniker City is celebrating its 50th year of existence somewhere in an alternative Victorian England. Petra Wade has grown up as an orphan in Chroniker City, which suits her just fine – the city part, not the orphan part. She fits this city like a glove because she loves to tinker with every mechanical item she can find. Her dream is to go to Chroniker University and become accepted into the Guild as a clockwork engineer. She’s working as a shop girl for a pawn shop but what she loves doing is helping Mr. Stricket by fixing watches, clocks and anything mechanical that comes into the shop. She considered herself a ticker engineer.
Her confidence in her abilities has grown over the years and she knows she’s every bit as good as the students at the University. Still, she wants to be one of them more than anything. No woman has attended the University since it was founded by Lady Chroniker, a master clockwork engineer, but that doesn’t deter Petra. As soon as she’s old enough she tries to apply anyway, posing as her orphan brother Solomon, only to be turned away when caught lying.
“She and Solomon hadn’t planned for this. ‘So, I’m not from Eton,’ she blurted out.
‘I think that’s the first true thing you’ve said.’
‘You can’t stop me from applying.’
‘I have no desire to prevent worthy engineers from applying.’”
Then one day, some students in front of the shop are marveling over a small walking automaton one of them has created. Immediately Petra can see its flaws and several ways to improve it and says so. Most of them brush her off as an upstart mouthy little shop girl and its inventor, Emmerich Goss, is embarrassed in front of his friends.
“Now that she saw the thing up close, it was nothing impressive. It was a prototype at best, a rough experiment thrown together in a week’s time. Maybe it could walk but it didn’t have the efficiency a properly built ticker demanded…Petra could have built it solely out of clockwork, making it run quieter, more efficiently, and without the jolting.”
But Emmerich is also intrigued by what Petra says and returns later to discuss it with her. He’s been given a top-secret project by the Guild and the first step is seeing if he can turn his little automaton into a finished piece. It’s an unheard of honor for someone his age but he knows he needs help. Emmerich is smart enough to recognize the flaws in his work, likes her ideas as they talk, and offers her an assistant’s position helping him design the automaton for the Guild.
Petra sees a backdoor into the University and possibly even into the Guild, and readily accepts. She works non-stop on the design, realizing it will have to be larger than a human to accommodate the clockwork mechanisms needed. When the design Petra creates is approved, Emmerich finds ways to continue to sneak her into the lab so they can work together to create the finished automaton. Petra knows she won’t be given credit for her design, so she embeds her initials into the schematics and drawings to prove they’re hers.
She is definitely where she knows she belongs and Emmerich is blow away by her talent and skills. He also suspects something about her that even she doesn’t guess. They make an amazing team and both have never been happier than when they’re working together. What they don’t know is the kind of very real danger they’re in or where their creation will lead them.
As usual I’ve only given you the main thread for the beginning of The Clockwork Giant. It takes place in a city that combines high levels of mechanical technology coupled with Victorian sensibilities and repressiveness for women. Men rule, women serve. Don’t get me started on that soapbox. There is also the problem of The Luddites, who are anti-clockwork and foment all kinds of violence and rebellion.
Petra is a wonderful character who is very well developed. Her family of orphans makes for an almost Dickensian group, except with a kindly mistress looking out for them. Emmerich is more of a puzzle that gradually unfolds, and he’s a very likeable character. It was clear almost from the beginning that the two of them belonged together and I found myself playing internal matchmaker while I read, urging them to figure out what I’d already guessed. The romantic tension between them was palpable. Will they get together? I’ll never tell – I’m no spoiler. There are also an assortment of villains in The Clockwork Giant, some more overt than others, but disclosing who they are would be another spoiler I have no intention of giving you. *cue the evil book reviewer laugh*
You know going in that a steampunk novel will contain a degree of fascination with how mechanical things work. Petra is intrigued and fascinated with all things mechanical, and her fascination makes us as readers fascinated. Her earnestness and love for what she is doing was so infectious that I got swept up in it as well and personally I only care that machines work, not how they work.
I really enjoyed The Clockwork Giant and am very glad we’re able to host a giveaway for it. If you like the idea of a steampunk world, then I think you’re going to enjoy this one as well. Congrats to Brooke for a well-written and fun novel!
The Clockwork Giant was released on December 16, 2011, so it should be available at your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
I’d love to get your comments on The Clockwork Giant, Brooke Johnson, and/or this review.
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One lucky reader will win a trade paperback copy of The Clockwork Giant by Brooke Johnson!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 3/17/2012, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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3) You must be at least 13 years old to enter this giveaway.
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7) That’s it – it’s a very easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!
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