The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

4,5 stars.

So basically I don’t know much about steampunk, but I LOVE the the whole aesthetics of the style. I’ve read a couple of books of the subgenre, namely The Aeronaut’s Windlass and Retribution Falls and its sequels, had a ton of fun, so it’s obvious I wanted more.
Here comes this book, with a cute cover and I was basically sold on it.

in the 1700’s Russia the Tsar has some of the most brilliant of his scientists repair two ancient robots, both wonderfully complex and fantastic.
On the other story line a young scientist today is working on finding all the still existing robots and trying to understand them, but she is in danger when she reveals to a colleague that she actually has an old piece of machinery in her possession.
The two stories happen bit by bit in alternating chapters, slowly connecting.

Based on the cover I expected something very light. Hey, it was even sure, so it seemed obvious that it was simple and all. Yeah, no. The whole thing is written in a much more poetic language than you would guess, especially with much of the story dealing with one of the characters trying to find his meaning, the goal that his artificial life was created to achieve.
I would go as far as to say it could have been kind of tiring to read this style in the book was longer, but the little over 300 pages made it digestible and downright pleasurable.
At the same time, I don’t think the world and the ideas were used to their full potential. Not sure f the author is working on more, but the world building is rich enough to afford much more, without being an infodump that breaks the flow. I can appreciate that. Nowadays fantasy books seem to get longer and longer and lets be honest, a lot of us are not always up for 800 pages per book. Bite sized adventures do have a legitimate place and a change of pace is pretty good once in a while.

As someone not too knowledgeable about steampunk, I would say this one is a good choice for anyone like me. It doesn’t assume you know all kinds of technicalities about the genre, about the previous works or really, anything. The dealing with one of the protagonists’ duty and meaning in life is a close enough topic, it’s something that brings closer the specific characteristics of novels of this kind.
The other part of the book is mostly mystery and action. Not bad at all, but I definitely preferred the chapters with the Russian automatons. I would say the writing style fits much more there, it’s more colourful and interesting.

Another thing I liked quite a lot was how the story was closed down. It works well as an open ended thing, the adventure only getting over the first part, something possibly still going on as the automatons reach a whole new era of their culture. But… I wouldn’t be surprised if the other or went ahead and actually wrote it all.
The recent months of indie literature picking up like crazy are making me optimistic about this one, maybe it will be the next one picked up by a big publisher and I would wholeheartedly support that. Maybe it would open up some new people to steampunk.

One thing was weird, though. The story spans a long time, many different countries from Russia to India, but somehow the automatons all speak all the languages. Sometimes it’s mentioned they need to work on their accents and all, but at the same time spontaneous encounters never really detail HOW it happens that they all understand each other and also humans. That little thing was a bit iffy.

Aaaaaaand finally a story without romance. Yiss. Okay, this is just me, but I love it when we are actually seeing relationships other than romance, it’s so refreshing. Pointing it out feels important, as many people really do love romantic stuff. This is not for them.

Have a nice day and gear up for fun!

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