MtSnow reviews ‘Blood and Clockwork’ by Katey Hawthorne. Published by Less Than Three Press on March 16, 2016. 69 pages.
This week was ‘2 for 1 short story’ week, and I saw this gorgeous cover in NetGalley, and read the blurb. It looked right up my alley, and I had to grab it. In the author’s own words, it is a ‘clockpunky, asexual romance fantasy with lots of mystery?’ Cute *wink*.
Note: a copy of this book was received in exchange for an honest review.
BLURB: Alistair Click set out to lay to rest the superstitious fears about the Mad Prince’s clockwork tower. If that meant he might bring the ghost city of Avalonia back to economic life, connecting the western kingdoms once again, so much the better. So what if no adventurer who’d entered the tower in the last century of desolation had ever re-emerged? They didn’t have his skill and wit. He could do better.
The tower turns out to be far more than Alistair expected, however. Not only are there clockwork puzzles to open every door, but one of them drops a boy from a strange world into his lap–figuratively speaking, if only just. Marco Murphy was just gaming in his New Jersey apartment, and now he’s stuck in what feels like a never ending LARP nightmare.
The deeper they delve into the Mad Prince’s tower, the darker the secrets they uncover. They’re not entirely sure they’ll ever be able to get out again, either. It’ll take all Marco’s charm and Alistair’s cleverness, plus the strange bond growing between them, to get them out together… and alive.
It was as if I’d found my way through a clockwork forest, where each strange plant, and all its fruits were made of copper and bronze and the workings of time.”
Okay, so the gorgeous cover drew me in, and this quote from the story is a great example of the lyrical quality of the first person voice of Alistair. I’ve never read this author before, but I very much liked her style. I enjoyed that she added an Ace character who found an open and accepting friend in a contemporary young gamer who wants to be more, and I liked the bit of time travel plugged in, too.
The narrator voice of Alistair was lyrical, and beautiful to read. It was almost historical in nature and a bit poetic, but easy to understand. And the descriptions of the clockwork, as well as the MC’s love for the craft were well portrayed.
Marco, a modern-day gamer, just ‘drops in’ in the middle of this fantastical clockwork castle of sorts, and it was rather fun how the author melded the contemporary and a steampunk-style dystopian world, where magic, blood, and the mechanics of the working clockwork rooms are full of puzzles to be solved by our protagonists. This author was descriptive, and there were moments of shocking and bloody horror evened out with moments of comfort.
Without giving anything away, there is a mystery these two are working through. And at the same time, it is refreshing to see how they have a personal give and take with accepting each other and their differences, and it took creativity and an open-mindedness on both their parts to find common ground in their attraction for each other without it overpowering the lyrical nature of the story.
There are some surprises as they make their way through the puzzles and mazes the Mad Prince has created. The way it was created is rather grotesque, but works very well in this format.
After finishing this story, I’m very interested in either more adventures in this world, or purchasing other stories written by this author. I can even imagine this particular one would make a good audiobook, as I can hear the tick, t-tick tock of the Mad Prince’s Tower.
It was a notable deviation from the many books currently published in this genre, and I’m very much thinking that more Ace stories should be written and the audience might be enlightened by a point of view with them in mind.
Very highly recommended, and this will be an author I will be watching for more. Loved it!
9.5/10 Pots of Gold (95% Recommended) – Compares to 4.75/5 Stars.
WHERE TO PURCHASE:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Katey Hawthorne is an avid reader and writer of superpowered romance, even though the only degree she holds is in the history of art. (Or, possibly, because the only degree she holds is in the history of art.) Originally from the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia, she currently lives in Ohio. In her spare time she enjoys comic books, B-movies, loud music, Epiphones, and Bushmills.