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CONVERSATIONAL REVIEW: Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

Janine: When Jaili (Maili) and I recently found out we were reading the same little-known book from 2008, Dru Pagliassotti’s Clockwork Heart, we thought it would be fun to discuss it here at Dear Author. But first, a plot synopsis:

book review Clockwork Heart takes place in a fictional Industrial Age city-state called Ondinium. One of Ondinium’s industries is the mining of ondium, a precious metal lighter than air. Ondium is used to make wings for Ondinium’s icarii, flying messengers allowed to travel freely between Ondinium’s three sectors.

Ondinium is a divided city. Its citizens worship a goddess known as the Lady of the Forge and believe in reincarnation. Most of Ondinium’s citizens are divided into three castes, and the members of each caste live in separate sectors, and have their caste marks tattooed on their cheeks. Upper caste citizens are believed to be more enlightened than others, and are referred to as exalted. In theory the icarii, who do not belong to any caste, don’t have to defer to them, but the reality is different.

The story begins when its heroine, an icarus named Taya, comes to the aid of an exalted woman and her child who are trapped in a sabotaged wireferry. Taya is the closest icarus to spot Viera Octavus and her young son Ariq, and she carries Ariq down to safety, and then, with the help of her fellow icarus and ex-boyfriend Pyke, rescues Viera.

Taya and Pyke are questioned by a lictor, Ondinium’s equivalent of a police detective, who suggests that a group of anti-technology terrorists called the Torn Cards may have sabotaged the wireferry. The lictor asks Taya to watch out for anything suspicious from the air, and report such activities to the lictors.

Shortly afterwards, Taya delivers a message to the office of Decatur Alister Forlore, an exalted member of the ruling Council, at Oporphyr Tower. Taya arrives to find Decatur Forlore conversing with the man who has just finished repairing his clock. Unlike Decatur Forlore, who wears an exalted’s robes and jewels, the repairman is dressed in cheap clothing, so when he turns around, Taya is shocked to see that the repairman, too, has the exalted markings tattooed on his cheeks. He is a man who has chosen to live outside his caste.

The two men, Alister and Cristof, are brothers. They are also cousins to the woman Taya rescued, and they question Taya about Viera’s welfare. After Cristof departs, Alister offers Taya wine and flirts with her, and she is attracted to him enough so that she has to remind herself that she and Alister belong to different castes.

Later that night, Taya attends a family wedding in the low-caste Tertius sector. On her way home she is set upon by thugs who want to steal her ondium wings. Before they can do so, Cristof, Decatur Forlore’s brother, appears and helps her fight them off. Cristof takes Taya to his clock shop to care for her wings and they strike up a conversation. But when Taya leaves the shop, there is an explosion in a nearby refinery, and she begins to wonder if Cristof had something to do with it.

In the coming days, Taya meets both Cristof and Alister again. She goes on a date with Alister, who is as charming and friendly as his brother is surly and aloof. She is also feted by exalted in honor of her rescue of Viera and Ariq from the sabotaged wireferry, and she learns of Alister’s suspicions that the terrorists’ activities may be related to a program he is writing for the computer known as the Great Engine, which helps run Ondinium’s society.

The program, “Clockwork Heart,” is designed to predict which couples will have happy marriages. Alister thinks that the terrorists known as the Torn Cards may have learned of the program and may be willing to stop at nothing in order to prevent its use. And although Taya suspects that Cristof may be one of those terrorists, she finds that she is drawn to him and to Alister both…

And now for the conversational portion of this review:

Janine: Let’s start our discussion of Clockwork Heart with the question of genre. How would you categorize this book, or would you? There is no genre label on the spine of the book, and after thinking about it, I think it’s a true genre-bender, with elements of fantasy, mystery, romance, and science fiction of a steampunk flavor. What do you think?

Jaili: I went into Clockwork Heart thinking it was a steampunk historical romance because that was how it was described during a discussion about book recommendations. However, it isn’t as I expected. It’s genre-defying, but at the same time it isn’t. It’s a patchwork of genres, which turned out to be one of the best strengths – and the biggest weakness – of this novel.

Janine: Genre distinctions are important because they set reader expectations. I have to admit that in my case, I wanted more romance than what there was in this book. Yes, there is a romantic relationship that eventually develops, and it even has a happy ending, but it felt kind of cursory to me, and that made the book disappointing to me, despite the fact that it had several strong suits.

Jaili: You said it all. I also had no idea it featured a love triangle. If I had known, I wouldn’t have touched Clockwork Heart because I have a terrible habit of peeking at the end to see who the heroine will end up with. I used to suffer disappointment with other novels when the heroine didn’t choose the one I thought she should have chosen, hence the peek-at-the-end habit. I only do this with love-triangle novels. Because I don’t like peeking at the end, I avoid them. However, I could guess early who Taya might end up with because it was clear who the author favoured, which means I didn’t need to look at the end. Thank goodness!

Janine: I’m laughing because I peek at the end of love triangles also! And I did it in this case because I couldn’t guess. But since I don’t want to spoil which man Taya ends up with, I’ll just say that I felt they both had their problems. Alister, though elegant and loaded with charm, was a bit too slick and cavalier at first, while Cristof was a bit too prickly and standoffish at first. I wasn’t sure that either of them could make Taya happy, and I wasn’t completely convinced that the one she ended up with would do so, even at the end of the book.

Jaili: To be honest, there were moments when I felt Taya was a Mary Sue because not only the brothers were interested in her, there was her ex-boyfriend who seemed to carry a torch for her and there were a couple of other men who seemed to flutter their eyelashes at Taya. I think that contributed to a feeling the actual pairing wasn’t that convincing. I have heard, though, that there will be a sequel. Perhaps their relationship in the sequel will solidify enough to make it convincing.

Janine: Interesting thought about so many men being attracted to Taya. I didn’t pay attention to the Mary Sue aspect of that, but it’s a good point.

Let’s talk a bit about the book’s strengths. I was most impressed with the richly detailed world Pagliassotti crafted. Ondinium was a very complex place, with the castes that made up its social strata, the reincarnation religion, the 19th century technology, and the many characters which included foreign thieves, politicians, lictors, vendors, miners, programmers and icarii.

Jaili: Oh, yes. The worldbuilding was fantastic. I was truly impressed. There were many clear influences from a couple of Eastern cultures by the way of the caste system, the religion and some other elements, but I think Pagliassotti made it her own. Just about.

That said I had the impression it was a historical with a familiar setting, but it wasn’t. I’m still not even sure of the time setting. The only thing I know is it has 19th century-style technology, but the time setting? I have no idea. The past, the present or the future? I simply don’t know.

I think I even wondered if it was supposed to be similar to the society portrayed in Frank Herbert’s SF fantasy novel, Dune (which I have to say is the only SF fantasy novel I read! To my fantasy-mad husband’s distress, I’m not a fan of fantasy novels.) There is a slight similarity between the societies of Dune and Clockwork Heart, but I have very limited experience with fantasy novels, so perhaps my comparison may be wrong.

Janine: I think it was a fantastical steampunkish world, rather than one that has a connection to our own past, present or future. I agree that the blend of East and West worked because Pagliassotti made it her own. I was impressed by the way all the elements of the worldbuilding meshed almost seamlessly. The combination of complex yet accessible worldbuilding and the sympathetic characters reminded me a bit of some of Sharon Shinn’s books, like Heart of Gold and Jovah’s Angel.

Jaili: I take it back. Dune isn’t the only SF fantasy novel I’ve read because I’ve also read Jovah’s Angel! It’s a good comparison. You’re right, it does remind me of JA. I also agree that the elements merged very well, which is impressive for a debut author.

Janine: I thought the mystery was well constructed in the sense that I didn’t guess exactly what was going on and who the various villains were in advance, and I am usually good at sussing out such things.

Jaili: I guessed early and was proven right in the end, but there was little enough to hang my guess in question until it was confirmed. In fairness to Pagliassotti, I heavily read and watch mystery and crime fiction as well as romantic suspense. There are very few that surprise me nowadays. With this in mind I thought she did well with the mystery angle.

Janine: As I’ve hinted above, I think the sympathetic nature of the characters was another strength. But there was also a weakness in the characterization, which I didn’t really become aware of until I started wracking my brain to try to figure out why I didn’t enjoy the book more: The major characters didn’t really have much in the way of layers or hidden dimensions. I would have loved for the characters to be explored more in the course of the story, but for the most part, with the heroes of the book, what we saw was what we got.

Jaili: As I mentioned earlier, the book’s strength is its patchwork of genres, but it’s also the biggest weakness. It didn’t allow me to invest. When I read a romance novel, for instance, I adjust to-‘I suppose-‘a framework of a romantic story to invest myself in characters and their developing relationship in spite of its genre; let it be SF, mystery, urban fantasy and whatnot. With a crime novel regardless of whether it has a romantic element or not, I’d adjust mentally to figure out the mystery along with the fictional investigator.

Clockwork Heart didn’t have a major genre that I could adjust myself to. Because of Clockwork Heart’s genre-defying nature, I couldn’t cope with having to switch between mental adjustments constantly. Mystery. Fantasy. Romance. Adventure. I usually can cope with a typical novel with at least two elements, e.g. romantic suspense or futuristic romance, but Clockwork Heart is, in essence, a fantasy novel that has its own terminology with a world that I wasn’t familiar with. I think readers who enjoy fantasy novels wouldn’t have this problem, though.

Anyroad, it was interfering with my enjoyment of the story, so I chose to focus just on characters instead and found that they, as you say, didn’t have much depth or layers, which was quite disappointing.

In spite of all that I liked the characters, especially Taya. She was the saving grace because if I hadn’t liked her, I wouldn’t have finish the novel.

Janine: I agree that Taya was appealing even if she didn’t have as much depth as I would have liked.

Several of my favorite novels have blended genres, including Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, Byatt’s Possession, Japrisot’s A Very Long Engagement, and Sharon Shinn’s angel books, among others. So I tend to think it all depends on how well integrated the genre elements are and whether such books are satisfying on more than one level.

It’s time to grade Clockwork Heart. This book is a tough one to grade, because my head and my heart are split. Usually my enjoyment level goes hand in hand with my intellectual assessment of a book. In this case, though, my enjoyment was no more than a C, while I think the craftsmanship deserves at least a B. I had a cold when I read the book, and it is possible I would have enjoyed it more had I been healthy, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and a B-.

Jaili: I had no idea I would have problems with grading this book! It’s an excellent fantasy novel, no doubt. Even more so when we consider it’s a debut. I read somewhere online that Pagliassotti wrote the first draft of Clockwork Heart for a popular annual online event, National Novel Writing Month. Very impressive. As a steampunk-based fantasy novel, it’s excellent. Her use of 19th century technology in this setting is out of the world. As a romance novel? It’s so-so and I could do without the love triangle. I’m not a fan of love triangles, to be fair. A mystery? Also, so-so. Like the patchwork nature of Clockwork Heart, my initial grade was a patchwork: A, B and C.

I’m still disappointed it’s not a steampunk historical romance, but it gets an A- from me because of Pagliassotti’s craftsmanship, the worldbuilding, the steampunk element, and the fact I enjoyed it.

This book can be purchased in mass market from an independent bookstore or in ebook format from Fictionwise.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.


  1. Janine
    May 13, 2009 @ 15:55:17

    Maili emailed me to let me know that the book is available in e-format from Fictionwise.

  2. Ciar Cullen
    May 13, 2009 @ 16:05:31

    This has been on my TBB list forever, and I wondered about the genre. Especially since I just finished a steampunkish (big emphasis on the -ish) romance. I think we’ll see more of these genre benders and my guess is that they’ll appeal more to fantasy readers than most romance readers.

  3. evie byrne
    May 13, 2009 @ 16:13:02

    Hey, I’ve read this book!

    I’m so glad you reviewed it because I’ve never been able to talk to anyone about it. My reactions mirror yours, and I lean toward Janine’s take overall. Despite the beautiful world building something about the characterization did seem thin and I think that was why I felt a bit discontent when it was all over. But it wasn’t a bad book by any means. The images from it stay with me still, and I admire her genre blending. I’m keeping my eye out for her future work.

  4. Janine
    May 13, 2009 @ 16:27:59

    Ciar – It’s truly difficult to pigeonhole the genre, but if I had to pick a genre for it I would probably choose fantasy.

    Evie – It does sound like we agree. “Beautiful world building” + “thin-seeming characterization” + “not a bad book by any means” sums it up for me as well. The imagery was very memorable. I would be willing to read something of Pagliassotti’s again, too, especially considering that Clockwork Heart was her debut.

  5. Sophy
    May 13, 2009 @ 17:10:59

    i picked up the book randomly while i was on travel and couldn’t put it down; i thought the world-building was beautifully done. i loved the steampunk element. (i would love a pair of ondium wings!)

    but, i also agree that the characters, though likable, were a little flat. additionally, i had the distinct feeling that i was reading a manga or novelization of an anime because of the descriptions of the characters; namely christof (think Clover or any manga by Clamp). so, it was not a surprise when i did some research and discovered that the author is a huge manga/anime fan.

    i really did enjoy reading Clockwork Heart, but i found myself disappointed that everything is just too neatly resolved at the end. of course, if you want a book that ends happily for all (and is a fun read), i would recommend this. i’m looking forward to more of the author’s work.

  6. Janine
    May 13, 2009 @ 17:30:12

    Sophy, I agree with most of what you said (except the couldn’t put it down part — that didn’t happen to me). Although I love a happy ending, I do agree the resolution was a bit too neat. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so I’ll just say that I would have liked to see more turmoil in the hero over his brother’s situation at the end of the book — that would have been more believable.

  7. Lorelie
    May 13, 2009 @ 19:24:16

    Funniest thing, I just ordered a used copy of this earlier in the week.

  8. Janine
    May 13, 2009 @ 19:25:10

    I hope you enjoy it, Lorelie.

  9. Collette
    May 13, 2009 @ 19:41:41

    I really loved this book at the beginning and couldn’t put it down. That intense interest flagged a little as the book went on but I didn’t really know why. After reading your reviews, I think that it was because the ending was a little flat. But overall, I really enjoyed this book (A-/B+) and wouldn’t hesitate to read more of her work. I’m really glad you reviewed it.

  10. Zoe Archer
    May 13, 2009 @ 19:59:23

    I’m curious if there are any steampunk romances. Can anyone recommend some titles?

  11. Janine
    May 13, 2009 @ 20:08:40

    Thanks, Collette!

    If you don’t mind m/m, Zoe, I recommend Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale. I reviewed it here.

  12. Maili
    May 14, 2009 @ 03:11:21

    @Ciar Cullen
    I’m hoping there wouldn’t be more gender benders because although this type is already a hundred years old, there aren’t many traditional steampunk novels to begin with. :D

    There are two major types of steampunk fiction: those that use sorcery (the fantasy type) and those that don’t (the SF type). Both share one major element in common: 19th-century steam-based technology (no electricity or later technology).

    I’m a fan of the SF type, but I love the alternate-reality Victorian setting even more. It’s a world of historical anachronisms and impossibilities, 19th-century technology, and familiar historical people. I don’t mind the paranormal aspect, e.g. vampires, the supernatural (implied or not; think The Legend of the Sleeping Hollow), and so on.

    Such Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula (Dracula’s wife is Queen Victoria), Tim Powers’s The Anuis Gates, and Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s graphic novel series, League of the Extraordinary Gentlemen. I’m not keen on sorcery at all. I loved Tim Powers’s use of familiar historical people enough to tolerate (just barely) the story’s magic aspect.

    If I had to decide which audience would enjoy Clockwork Heart most, it would be mystery readers who enjoy the romantic type, such as Megan Chance’s The Spiritualist (which has similar levels of romance and ‘feel’ of writing).

    Having that said, I found out yesterday the author described Clockwork Heart as a Fantasy Mystery. We will have to go with that, then.

    @evie byrne
    I completely agree. I’m a huge fan of character-driven stories, which is why I have mixed feelings about Clockwork Heart.

    After the novelty of the worldbuilding worn off, the cast of characters weren’t much to chew on. I couldn’t give CH a lower grade because it’s obvious how much the author invested in this story. It’s so vivid that one couldn’t help but admire. I am hoping the characters in her next novel would have more depth, though. Fingers crossed.

    @Sophy May

    i had the distinct feeling that i was reading a manga or novelization of an anime because of the descriptions of the characters; namely christof (think Clover or any manga by Clamp). so, it was not a surprise when i did some research and discovered that the author is a huge manga/anime fan.

    Ouch! :D I’m a long-time fan of graphic novels (British, American, European, Chinese, Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Japanese, South Korean, Malaysian and Thai comics). I have never been that interested in the Clamp type as I tend to be drawn to dark psychological, philosophical and off-the-kilter types, regardless of art styles.

    Comics are similar to novels; it has a wide range of types and depths. Some shallow, some aren’t. Some seem shallow, but aren’t and some seem complex, but are actually shallow.

    There are plenty that feature complex characterisations, so I think it’s a little unfair to use the author’s interest in manga as a possible reason for the thin characterisation in CH. I think in this case, the author was so focused on the worldbuilding that the depth of her characters suffered a bit.

    When you finished reading it, please share your thoughts. I’d love to know. Until then, hope you enjoy it.


    I really loved this book at the beginning and couldn't put it down. That intense interest flagged a little as the book went on but I didn't really know why. After reading your reviews, I think that it was because the ending was a little flat.

    That summed up my reaction quite well. I think my expectations had a lot to do with it, to be fair. As I mentioned in the review, I went into it believing it was a historical steampunk romance and that interfered with the reading.

    @Zoe Archer

    I'm curious if there are any steampunk romances. Can anyone recommend some titles?

    As far as I know, there isn’t any.

    The nearest is Emma Holly’s The Demon’s Daughter. Despite the story’s minor storytelling flaws, I enjoyed it. While it didn’t quite fit my expectations of a steampunk romance, I would go as far to say I consider it the first historical steampunk romance.

    There is Gail Dayton’s New Blood, which has been described as a steampunk romance, but Dear Author’s review suggests otherwise. I’m slow with getting a copy because it seems to revolve around sorcery (as I mentioned earlier, I’m not a fan of sorcery), but I plan to get it some day.

    There are a few coming up this year and next:
    Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke, Liz Maverick’s Crimson & Steam, Gail Carriger’s Soulless, Nathalie Gray’s Pistols, Corsets and Flying Privateers, and (I believe) Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.

    There are more, but these are for Young Adult fiction. Tor Books is putting out a lot of steampunk novels these days. I wouldn’t be surprised if they introduced a line of steampunk romance novels in a few years’ time.

    I hadn’t heard of Ginn Hale’s Wicked Gentlemen until I read Janine’s comment above. Although it’s a m/m romance, I’ll get a copy.

  13. Christine McKay
    May 14, 2009 @ 06:57:39

    I came at this one a little differently – with a computer science background and a more techy perspective. For me, I thought it was a perfect story. Loved the punch card elements of the giant computer (and the giant computer itself), the programming, and all the little computer-ish elements. Recommended it to all my computer geek friends.

    From a geek perspective, it has just enough romance to satisfy, but it was the bits and bytes and clever creation of the villains and their motives that kept me reading.

  14. Estara
    May 14, 2009 @ 07:14:05

    I muchly liked the world-building and the characters (I read a lot of fantasy and scifi as well as romance), although I do agree that I would have liked to see the main characters have more of a nuanced presentation: I did love that all the side characters were their own people even if they were on screen only for a short time, like Viera. I especially loved Taya’s BFF and her connections (like the dressmaker ladyl) and the much put-upon lictor in charge of solving the mysteries.

    I really LOVED the dialogue ^^.

  15. Ciar Cullen
    May 14, 2009 @ 07:33:09

    I’ve heard that someone–maybe MelJean Brooks has sold a steampunk romance recently. Because I just finished writing one (that sits in a few inboxes right now), I’ve searched high and low. I find steampunk works with romantic elements, but not what I would call real romances (where the romance could be picked up and put in another setting and is the focus).

    I really struggled with some aspects of my book, because in a romance, one doesn’t want the worldbuilding to overpower the characters, if that makes sense. [Insert big sigh here]…I did something that probably still wouldn’t be characterized as steampunk. Someone said that you either have an alternate sorcery based or technology based (fantasy/SF) universe with steam-based widgets. I did neither, so mine is a paranormal almost-urban fantasy time-travel whats-it set in 1890 Manhattan, and Egypt.

    And that ain’t a good elevator pitch :o)

  16. Zoe Archer
    May 14, 2009 @ 09:36:03

    @Maili: Thank you for that very thorough response. I’m curious to see what comes down the pipeline in the next few years.

  17. Janine
    May 14, 2009 @ 10:01:37


    I’m not sure Wicked Gentlemen would work for you since it’s not the SF kind of steampunk. It’s more of a fantasy-paranormal steampunk. I don’t remember any sorcery per se, but one of the heroes is a descendant of demons and therefore has special abilities. The setting isn’t our own world, but another world very similar to our own 19th century. Still, I think it’s an excellent book.

    @Christine McKay:

    I really enjoyed the punch card element of the Great Engine computer, and the way it was so important to the citizens of Ondinium. Those details seemed very well executed to me so it’s good to hear from someone with a computer science background that they were.


    I agree the side characters like Viera and the lictor were well-drawn. Re. the dialogue, I was a bit thrown at first by the way some of the icari talked like 21st century people (I think Pyke called Taya “Babe”), but I adjusted to it pretty quickly and stopped noticing it.

    @Ciar Cullen:

    Yes, Meljean Brook has sold a steampunk romance; Maili mentioned it in her reply to Zoe above, along with some other titles.

    Your book sounds pretty intriguing to me, esp. the 1890 Manhattan and Egypt settings, so it’s not such a bad elevator pitch.

  18. Jaili
    May 14, 2009 @ 10:20:49

    (Urr, not sure why my comment has a duplicate section. Sorry!)

    @Christine McKay
    Those tech bits are what I liked the best about CH. Goggles at the start, the punch cards, etc. Yeah, that’s what I enjoyed the most.

    Ideally, a historical steampunk romance would have all that, but sets in Victorian England (or anywhere that’s familiar to typical historical romance readers) and a bigger focus on romance. (I’ll adore any romance author who dared to make the automata part of their characters’ everyday life. :D)

    You got it spot on. Interesting point about the dialogue, though.

    @Ciar Cullen

    I really struggled with some aspects of my book, because in a romance, one doesn't want the worldbuilding to overpower the characters, if that makes sense.

    It does make sense and I feel that’s what a romance should be. Romance ought to be the focus, not the worldbuilding. Similar to Regency romance/regency-era novel, historical romance/historical novel, SF novel/futuristic romance, etc.

    The easiest way to imagine a historical steampunk romance: a neo-Victorian romance. It doesn’t have to be Victorian as there are steampunk novels that set in different time periods (the Roman Empire, the Regency, etc.).

    What separates steampunk fiction from speculative fiction is the presence of 19th century style technology. It’s all about the aesthetics, really.

    I did something that probably still wouldn't be characterized as steampunk. Someone said that you either have an alternate sorcery based or technology based (fantasy/SF) universe with steam-based widgets. I did neither, so mine is a paranormal almost-urban fantasy time-travel whats-it set in 1890 Manhattan, and Egypt.

    It sounds as if it’s either fantasy or speculative fiction. It also sounds like you’re doing the romantic version of Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates (it partly sets in Egypt) or Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog (from the future to post-WWII England). Both are fabulous, by the way.

    Speculative romance is a neglected (or maybe, misunderstood) sub-genre, so it sounds as if you’re going to kick-start it with your latest romance. Your story seems interesting. Let me know when it’s out because I think I would read it. :) Best of luck.

    @Zoe Archer
    My pleasure. I’m curious as well. I have been waiting to get my mitts on a steampunk romance for almost twenty years, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

  19. Janine
    May 14, 2009 @ 10:54:37


    (Urr, not sure why my comment has a duplicate section. Sorry!)

    Not to worry, I fixed it.

  20. Estara
    May 14, 2009 @ 13:02:08


    I mean stuff like on page 21, witty repartee between the lictor Amcathra and Taya after the aerial rescue

    “Then it was a coincidence that you were close to the accident scene, ” he summarized. “If you had not stopped to rest there-”
    “We all got lucky.”
    “Yes.” Amcathra handed her a printed form and a pencil. “The last thing I must have is your signature and eyrie number. We will send you a message if we need to talk to you again.”
    Taya blinked, surprised.
    “That’s it? I thought we came in here because it was going to take a long time.”
    “We came in here because you needed to be away from the crowd.”
    “Oh. Well, thank you.”
    “We do not often beat and brainwash Ondinium’s citizens,” he said, dryly.
    Taya grinned. “Don’t mind Pyke. He’s harmless.”

    Or this part on page 60 at the dressmaker’s shop (nephew of Cassi, the BFF) when creating the perfect ballgown

    “I can’t belive you icarii, ” he grumbled. “You’re thin enough, but none of you has any breasts. And your legs are too short. And your arms! We’ll have to hide your shoulders.”
    “What’s wrong with my shoulders?” Taya protested. “I mean, aside from the cut.”
    “You’re cut? How badly?” Before she could argue, he’d pulled up her shirt and was groaning to himself. “Not even bandaged. I don’t believe this – do you want a scar? Fine, fine, no problem. I can work around it. It’s too cold for bare shoulders, anyway. Especially shoulders like yours.”
    “What’s wrong with my shoulders?” she insisted.
    “Muscles aren’t ladylike.” He scowled, his pencil flying over a sheet of paper. “I feel like I’m dressing a boy. Fortunately, I’ve made dresses for Cassi before, so I know a few tricks.”
    “I’m not a boy. And my breasts are just fine, thank you very much.”
    “They’re fine for a flier. They don’t give a designer much to work with. Too big in front and you need too much internal support. Too little and the front won’t stay up on its own.” He chewed on the end of his pencil a moment, then started scribbling again. “I’d sell my soul for perfect breasts.”
    “You and me both.” Taya grimaced and sat, sneaking a glance down at her chest. Nobody had ever told her that her breasts were too small before. Great. Now she had something else to worry about.

  21. Kalen Hughes
    May 14, 2009 @ 16:20:25

    *a precious metal lighter than air*

    Makes brain go *grrr* and make snapping sounds.

  22. Janine
    May 14, 2009 @ 17:14:46

    Makes brain go *grrr* and make snapping sounds.

    LOL. I had to work to suspend disbelief in that concept myself.

  23. Sophy
    May 14, 2009 @ 17:20:48

    @ maili

    …I think it's a little unfair to use the author's interest in manga as a possible reason for the thin characterisation in CH. I think in this case, the author was so focused on the worldbuilding that the depth of her characters suffered a bit.

    oh! i didn’t mean to imply this at all (though i guess my earlier statement does read this way…); in any event, i’m also a long-time fan of graphic novels.

    i only meant to share that i found some humor in my initial perceived recognition of the anime/manga influence… and, later, some satisfaction after reading the author’s statement, on her website, The Mark of Ashen Wings, that

    Cristof Forlore was inspired by all those “glasses guys” in anime and manga.


  24. Angie
    May 14, 2009 @ 22:21:47

    I’m so glad you reviewed this one! I read it last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The world of Ondinium captivated me as did the descriptions of the icarii armature and the caste structure. I found the romance sweet. I think the mood you’re in at the time (what you’re looking/hoping for, etc) may influence your enjoyment level, but Clockwork Heart struck it just right for me. Can’t wait to read the sequel.

  25. Janine
    May 15, 2009 @ 00:06:17

    Thanks Angie. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the book.

  26. Jaili
    May 15, 2009 @ 01:48:18


    Oh yeah, those are good examples. Yes, these are what makes CH characters so likeable. Thanks for providing examples. I hope the others will like them enough to pick up a copy. :)

    @Kalen Hughes
    (laughing) That’s one of reasons why I like steampunk fiction so much. Impossible becomes possible. There’s no way a steam-based rocket can go to the moon, but in steampunk fiction, it can (as long as it maintains the ‘theoretically possible, but clearly impossible in reality’ basis). The bonus: the nit picker in me doesn’t have to come out and irritate everyone including me. :D

    Oh, I see! Thanks for clarifying. Actually, I should be the one to apologise. I mistakenly assumed you were one of those who looked down on comics as something that only kids and overgrown kids read. I didn’t notice the influence at all. Well spotted. (I love glasses guys myself.) That said, I must I confess I imagined Cristof as Rufus Sewell in the film ‘Dark City’. I have no idea where that came from. (laughing)

    Oh yeah, my expectations were definitely in the way. Like I told someone yesterday, if there were plenty of steampunk novels (of all kinds) I wouldn’t have any expectations. This is why I didn’t want CH to suffer from my unfulfilled expectations when I decided the grade. I look forward to the sequel, too. :)

  27. Aoife
    May 15, 2009 @ 08:28:54

    Thank you for this review, I had been hearing some buzz on this book, but wasn’t sure if it was worth ordering or not. One of my daughters is very in to steampunk (in fact, her wedding last month had a steampunk/neo-Victorian theme, including a top-hat and corset for her instead of the traditional white frou-frou!)) so I think I will get CH and then share it with her.

    @Maili Thanks for posting the upcoming books with a Steampunk theme, including Meljean’s. I will definitely be looking out for these. Are all of these going to be available in the US?

  28. Kalen Hughes
    May 15, 2009 @ 08:35:10

    as long as it maintains the ‘theoretically possible, but clearly impossible in reality' basis

    Except that a lighter than air metal isn’t “theoretically possible”. It defies the basic laws of physics (a solid cannot be lighter than a gas). I love the steampunk idea of steam power (or other basic low tech) accomplishing the same things that 20th/21st century high tech does, but I find it hard to suspend disbelief so far as to accept that the basic laws of physics don’t apply (unless the law is being suspended by some kind of magic/mystical force). And once we've thrown out the laws of physics for one aspect of our world, how am I supposed to know which other ones still apply? It's opening a can of worms and I can't stop staring at them . . .

    I think this is why I don't read a lot of paranormal romance, cause once the worldbuliding contradicts itself or exposes a gaping hole, the book is ruined for me.

  29. Janine
    May 15, 2009 @ 15:12:35

    @Aoife, wow, a steampunk-theme wedding! That sounds so cool! I would love to have been there. I’m not sure about the upcoming titles (Maili may be able to answer) but I know Wicked Gentlemen is available here in the US. There’s more information on the Blind Eye Books website.

  30. Aoife
    May 16, 2009 @ 07:18:58

    @Janine It was a fun wedding! I’d post a picture of my daughter if I could figure out how to do it.

    Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out. I’ve made a note of the other titles, and will see what I can turn up with those.

  31. Zoe Archer
    May 17, 2009 @ 20:55:43

    @Jaili: If I may give a tiny plug, I’ve got a series coming out in Fall 2010 that has steampunk elements–inventions created by one genius family for the organization that protects the world’s magic. In James Bond terms, they serve as Q to the British Secret Service. Naturally, one of the inventors gets his own story.


  32. evie byrne
    Jul 19, 2009 @ 09:14:52


    I just read that there’s definitely a Clockwork Heart sequel is coming out in 2010:

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