Clockwork Heart: Book One of the Clockwork Heart trilogy Paperback – Jun 28 2013
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"Pagliasotti has brought forth a terrific novel, one that embodies a bold new direction in the fantasy genre. For those who enjoy the work of China Mieville or D.M. Cornish..." — Drew Bittner, SFRevu.
"Escape to the fantastic and captivating three-tiered city Pagliassotti has created. The plot is intricate and has multilayered characters who perplex, entertain, and gratify. This is a wonderfully written book — one for the keeper shelf." — Romantic Times
"I must say, my little steampunk heart is just thrilled with this newest offering. It's an off-world story and the author has done a fantastic job with the worldbuilding." — Elizabeth Headrick, BookFetish.Org
About the Author
Dru Pagliassotti is a professor of communication at California Lutheran University, where she teaches media theory and practice. She published and edited The Harrow, an online literary magazine for fantasy and horror, from 1998 to 2009. As a long-time roleplayer, Dru worked at About.Com's Guide to roleplaying games from 1998 to 2001, writing weekly columns about roleplaying and reviewing hundreds of RPG systems and supplements; she had a brief appearance in About.Com's very first commercial, dressed as a swordswoman in a black doublet and pantaloons. Her martial arts training in judo, ju-jitsu, and aikido comes in handy when writing fight scenes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
At the center of the story is a young woman who works as an Icarus, basically the equivalent of a bicycle messenger only state-sponsored and with wings instead of a bike. The setting is a city-state that supports a caste system of governance. Again, pretty well thought out and not so complicated that you can't follow it. Taya, that main character, is a free-spirited, intelligent, unknowingly pretty protagonist who is drawn into a convoluted series of plots because she happens to be in the right place at the right time to save a woman and child who are members of the highest caste.
Taya is pretty well written and, as is often the case with female main characters in Fantasy works, she blends an interesting combination of stubbornness, willfulness and outright luck. She makes mistakes and causes problems for herself and others as a result and this makes her believable as a character. She is surrounded by a variety of supporting characters that fill their respective places in the story fairly well. No glaringly, out of place supporting cast in this book.
The story follows a fairly quick pace and covers a variety of settings. It's not quite an action/adventure book, but there's enough action to pace the slower social scenes. On the whole, it's well blended. I honestly felt more like I was reading a Urban Fantasy novel than a real Fantasy novel, but the setting is not modern.
If you're looking for traditional Fantasy this is not it. If you are willing to try something that carried hints of Fantasy with no real magic or Knights in shining armor then this is worth the trip. It's not too long and feels in no way like it's the beginning of another series. Kudos to the author for that.
It's a cross-genre book; however, it's beautifully written, cleverly orchastrated, and so original as to set a new standard.
Yes, the romance is there; however, it's very humanistic. This is not a book of casual lust that miraculously morphs into the forever kind of love. It's a book where the relationship is built one drop at a time, just like in real life.
What makes this book truly shine is the depth of plot, artistic world-building, vivid characterization, and sheer premise originality.
Kudos, Ms. Pagliassotti. Very well done.
Brothers Cristof and Alister Forlore belong to the Exalted class, a group of rulers revered and viewed as special because they've been perfected by the Lady through multiple reincarnations. When Taya saves their cousin's life, she is unwittingly drawn into the Forlore family's intricate world. Alister, a ladies' man and member of the ruling council, is instantly attracted to the petite muscle-bound icarus. And Taya, flattered, returns his flirtations. Cristof, who denied his class and instead chose a menial profession as a master Clock Wright, is everything his brother is not: plain-faced, rude, bossy, and anti-social, but analytical brilliance is something they both share.
When political turmoil erupts in the form of sabotage and bombings, and the Great Engine's inner workings are threatened, Taya will have to decide who to trust. The Exalted, who in public hide their intentions and feelings beneath ivory masks and silken robes? The lictors, a form of police, who amongst other things, strictly enforce the caste system? Her fellow icarii, some whom are vocal dissenters of the current system, or the Great Engine's programmers themselves?
I'll try not to spoil any of the story's many secrets. You'll have to read the book to see which of the brothers uses his mind and snags Taya for his own, but be prepared to be run through the emotional wringer. Treasured characters die. Political intrigue abounds. Even the secondary characters have lives of their own, right down to Jayce, a budding dressmaker, and Gwen, Taya's landlady and, for lack of a better term, dorm mistress.
This book sat in my to-be-read pile far too long. I'm not typically a gushing reviewer, but if you enjoy fantasy and complex world building, Clockwork Heart is a book you cannot ignore. The cast of characters each have their own unique voices, flawless in their mannerisms and activities. The heroine never acts too stupid to live. The hero isn't a hastily sketched, oozingly sweet man, which makes it all the harder for the author to get the heroine (and reader) to fall in love with him. The plot is as intricate as a clock's inner workings, every nuance as carefully placed as a treasured pocket watch's gears. This book made me cry, smile, snicker, and cheer. Having a computer programming background only enhanced my reading pleasure. In a sea of science fiction and fantasy authors who rely on paranormal elements like magic and mythical creatures to enhance their stories, I feel like the one exempt from it needs a standing ovation. Bravo, Ms. Pagliassotti, bravo.
Reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed
Taya is an icarus--a member of the messenger class. Every day she straps on a pair of metal wings and soars across the city of Ondinium delivering messages. Life in Ondinium is extremely stratified. As an incarus, Taya is considered outside caste and is therefore able to move freely between the uber-powerful upper crust and the lower level plebeians. Social rank is marked by a subtle facial tattoo. And the "exalteds" (the highest of the high) only go out in public masked and heavily robed, to preserve their grace and purity.
Then one day Taya inadvertently rescues an exalted and her son. This seemingly minor event thrusts her into the realm of the exalteds and into the lives of two brothers--Alister and Cristof Forlore. Alister is the dashing younger brother, a gifted programmer, a rising star on the political scene, and an incorrigible lover of women. Cristof is the caustic older brother who has chosen to live outside his caste, maskless, working as a clockwright among the working class of Ondinium. As a rebel group known only as the Torn Cards terrorizes the city with a series of bombings, Taya is swept up in a murder mystery and must quickly learn how to navigate the deep waters between exalted and plebeian, charm and ruthlessness, and Alister and Cristof Forlore.
CLOCKWORK HEART delighted me. I went into it complacently, wanting to love some characters and hate others unreservedly, but Ms. Pagliassottii's multi-faceted characterization made that impossible. I was forced to sit up and care about all of them, to see their flaws and their virtues, to really understand them and how they were themselves but also the product of the unique world they lived in, the society they were born into. A world built on the carefully delineated contrast between humanity and technology, privilege and humility. A truly engrossing read.
Taya is an "Icarus" in the mountain city-state of Ondinium. Icari are
sort of flying bike-messengers/mailmen/couriers for the city, but with
a bit more social status than that implies in our world. Ondinium is
apparently the only place in the world where the negative-weight, positive mass
metal "Ondium" can be mined, though it is rare even there. An ondium armature
negates enough weight that Icari can fly with metal wings.
Taya is happy in her job, but yearns to pass her diplomatic exams and see
the world as a (flying) diplomat for Ondinium. However, her life changes
dramatically when she makes a daring rescue during a "wireferry" (the
cable cars which connect the citys different peaks and neighborhoods) crash.
Saving the life of an "Elite" woman and her child propels her into the
affairs of the city's upper-crust and into the heart of the conspiracy
that imperils it.
I'm trying to figure out why I liked this book so well and I think there
are several reasons:
1) The setting feels real and lived in. Now perhaps there are many
elements that wouldn't make sense if I thought about them too hard,
but nothing slapped me in the face and said "I'm here to challenge
your suspension of disbelief!". Not only did it feel real, it felt
like a place worth saving, and you could believe the loyalty the
main characters felt for it. No one was blind to the problems of
society, but they all felt they could be addressed in the society's
own context. The police force was shown to be strict but fair, and
not so bound by bureaucracy that they wouldn't deputize the citizenry
when necessary. There was no real democracy, but different interests
were represented on the council, and the press seemed to be completely
free (if no more accurate than our own). Also there was broad
sexual equality and a general lack of obsession with people's
sleeping arrangements. There were obvious borrowings from Republican
Rome, Victorian England, Mandarinism and Hinduism, but I felt they
fell together well.
2) The characters were engaging. Taya is smart and ambitious, but
no steely eyed hero. When circumstances force her to kill someone (a police
officer who mistakenly believes she is trying to destroy the city's great
babbage engine) in self defense, she feels terrible about it. She is
also able to accept her eventual love interest for who he is without trying
to polish all his rough edges. Said love interest is no "love at first
sight" Mr. perfect either. In the "Night Huntress" books I just reviewed,
there's an obvious "something" about the "fate-ed" lover from the get-go.
Here it develops gradually.
3) The plot was interesting. The other "Juno" book I read recently,
_Personal Demons_ was more Supernatural Romance, with the plot designed
to bring the heroine and "hero" together. In _Clockwork Heart_, we get
enough plot that it would work as a "buddy movie" even without the
I would really like to see some more books in this setting.
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