ARC Review – The Clockwork Dagger (Clockwork Dagger Duology #1) – Beth Cato

20359709eARC provided by the publisher in exchange for fair review

Summary:

Full of magic, mystery, and romance, an enchanting steampunk fantasy debut in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger

“The Clockwork Dagger was just what I needed: A steampunk adventure with an uncommon heroine, a fascinating magic system, and a young gremlin! I’m hooked and can’t wait for more Octavia and Leaf!”
—New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. 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 cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

Review:

First off, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to discover this a duology. Not a triology, not an open-ended series, just a duology. It’s just a nice thing to see in a day and age when trilogies and open-ended series are the norm. Obviously though, that in of itself, is not enough to warrant a recommendation.

There are some good things going on here – the concept of the Lady and the Medician is rather good one. The Lady in particular seems to be a multi-facted Goddess figure, who both heals, but also later proves to be as much an judge, jury and executioner figure as many more traditional god archetypes of Western religions. She heals, but demands blood. Her Tree is sacred and can bring life, but is also almost sentient and can fight not unlike Groot. It’s one of the more interesting mythologies I’ve read this year.

Leaf, a gremlin, is a fun little character. Octavia gets attached to her quickly, and I can see why audiences would too. My only problem with the character, is that it was a bit of a Chekov’s gun. When he departs early on in the book, it’s obvious that he’s going to come back. It’s a matter of when, not if, so when you’re eventually proven right, it doesn’t feel like any great surprise. He was created for that moment when he was needed. Heck, if you want to be harsh, you could even say he’s a bit of a Deus Ex Machina character as he reappears just in the nick of time to get our heroine out of a tight spot.

Unfortunately, that is not the only obvious bit of foreshadowing – if you’re paying attention to what goes on and what Octavia has been saying about herself and her past, it doesn’t take a lot to figure out who her betrayer is. Octavia denies it so long though, it winds up making you feel like how can she not see this? It feels kind of heavy handed.  And this is part of what my biggest issue with the book is:

Octavia is a trope, a Powerful Innocent.

On the one hand, she knows that she can do things as a medician that others cannot. So much so that her internal dialogue pretty much states that this is the reason for her setting out into the broader world in the first place. And yet, when she is told that she is the most powerful medician out there, she is shocked to learn this. It’s like really? You can do things that no one else knows you can do – and you’re that surprised? She comes across as incredibly naive in general, and there’s a lot Oh Lady going on. It can get grating and it kept me a bit detached from the character.

There are some decent secondary characters, but honestly, one of them seems almost completely wasted. There was a lot of potential there and little was done with it, like she was a secondary target, when realistically she should have been on equal footing with our heroine. Is she doesn’t cross paths with Octavia in the final book, it’ll be a ridiculous waste.

I’m torn about this book. As I said, the Lady is a fun magic system, and if you don’t think too hard about it, the problems with the heavy-handed foreshadowing shouldn’t bother you. But like I said, Octavia isn’t the strongest character around and I think there’s a lot of wasted potential with Viola, who I actually like more and would like to follow her instead. I was going to recommend this for the steampunk fans, but really…those elements are fairly light and it may not feel steam punk enough for some. Still, it is a fun read and this definitely isn’t a so-bad-it’s-good fun read. And that is enough for me to say at least go check it out at the library and see if it grabs you.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: September 16

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