Books : reviews

Beth Cato.
The Clockwork Dagger.
Harper Voyager. 2014

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 3 August 2015

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabinmate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy may reach the crown itself.

Octavia Leander, one of the famed ‘Percival’ healers, gets her powers from a combination of The Lady’s Tree, and a range of herbs. The fact that the latter are ever in short supply forces her to hide her abilities most of the time, lest they become exhausted. She is taking an airship trip through her war-wracked country to her new home of Delford, in dire need of her powers. But it soon becomes clear that certain parties are trying to ensure she never arrives.

This is a strange mix of gritty steam-punk and fantasy, with an interestingly drawn world full of airships and factories, automata and healing powers, wars and cursed lands, steam engines and mechanical legs. Octavia is a combination of naive, being straight out of training, and very skilled in her craft, which allows her and her travelling companions to improbably survive many dangers.

Things start slowly, at airship pace; one important character reveals their desperate secret much too readily; then the action hots up for the final third. There is a satisfactory conclusion to the book, but it is clearly the first part of the overall story.

Beth Cato.
The Clockwork Crown.
Harper Voyager. 2015

Narrowly surviving assassination and capture, Octavia Leander, a powerful magical healer, is on the run with handsome Atonzo Garrett, the Clockwork Dagger who forfeited his career with the Queen’s secret society of spies and killers—and possibly his life—to save her. Now, they are on a dangerous quest to find safety and answers: Why is Octavia so powerful? Why does she seem to be undergoing a transformation unlike any witnessed for hundreds of years?

The truth may rest with the source of her mysterious healing power—the Lady’s Tree. But the tree lies somewhere in an inhospitable territory known as the Waste. Eons ago, this land was made barren by an evil spell, until a few hardy souls dared to return over the last century. For years, the Waste has waged a bloody battle against the royal court to win its independence—and they need Octavia’s powers to succeed.

Joined by unlikely allies, including a menagerie of gremlin companions, she must evade killers on a dangerous journey through a world on the brink of deadly civil war.