Author: Kristin Bailey
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Alternate History, Steampunk
Publication Date: March 5, 2013 (Simon Pulse – North America)
Source: Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: A teen girl unravels the mysteries of a secret society and their most dangerous invention in this adventure-swept romance set in Victorian London.
When a fire consumes Meg’s home, killing her parents and destroying both her fortune and her future, all she has left is the tarnished pocket watch she rescued from the ashes. But this is no ordinary timepiece. The clock turns out to be a mechanical key—a key that only Meg can use—that unlocks a series of deadly secrets and intricate clues that Meg is compelled to follow.
Meg has uncovered evidence of an elite secret society and a dangerous invention that some will stop at nothing to protect—and that Meg alone can destroy. Together with the handsome stable hand she barely knows but hopes she can trust, Meg is swept into a hidden world of deception, betrayal, and revenge.
☆: 3/5 stars – a solid debut, but had quite a few issues with it.
Review: Okay, so, I love steampunk, and I absolutely love the very firm foothold it’s gained within YA/MG within the last few years. I also love alternate universe/history stories and anything with a secret society? I’ll probably read it. So you can understand why I was really excited about “Clockwork Key” – it has all of those elements. However, I was a bit disappointed – while this book is a very solid debut, for vets of the steampunk genre like myself, it didn’t feel very new or exciting. However, I do think “Legend of the Clockwork Key” is going to be a great introduction book for the genre for younger YA or older MG readers.
My biggest problem with this book: our heroine is supposed to be in her mid-teens, but her voice sounds as if she’s maybe 13 or 14 at the very most. And while she’s fleshed out pretty well, it’s a very very SLOW fleshing out throughout the course of a little over 400 pages. The development was really dragging, and it was hard to keep my attention fixed on Meg.
Also, the machines. While some of them are pretty awesome and fantastical, we don’t get much explanation of how they work, or how they’re really integral to the world, the secret order, or anyone else really within it. Almost, it just kind of felt like a trope to build a world and build tension around – including the secret society, and the mystery that drives Meg the rest of the book after discovering the secret passage way that holds all of these great toys. I wanted more explanation and nerdery, in general, and I didn’t get it.
The world was a little shaky – I feel like it could have revolved a little less around the secret society, and I feel like we could have else seen what was different in this alternate history where steampunk exists. I feel like we could have had so much more, even within the household that Meg works in, in terms of the steam inventions department helping out the staff. Automatons/Automata? Yes, those would have been awesome. We don’t get much out of that house, and while it’s a great move on Bailey’s part to shrink the world to (mostly) the house for the sake of Meg’s development, it really limits what we see what else is in this world and this alternate time period.
The romance too, felt too simple for YA. Again, aged down in the voice department for Will, too. I also didn’t feel like Will was developed enough for the YA age group, and just…well, I guess everything in general just felt shy of the target age group in so many ways. And while solid, and readable, I just couldn’t entirely keep my attention fixed on it the whole time.
Final verdict? Veteran steampunk fans, you might want to skip this one. But for those just dipping their toes into the steampunk/alternate history genre pool, this is a great book to start with – just a bit too simple for me. “Legacy of the Clockwork Key” is out now from Simon and Schuster in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!