The Clockwork Dagger
by Beth Cato
Cover Artist: Gene Mollica
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Harper Voyager Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062313843
Date: 16 September 2014 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Magic and mystery on a dirigible. Octavia Leander is on the way to help a city full of poisoned people. She has served on the front lines where her healing skills far surpassed every other medician. There is now peace with the Waste but it is tenuous. Each side has committed atrocities, but the toll on each country is far greater than the original cause of strife.
Octavia has been coddled since her family died. Her naiveté makes her stand out even as she knows she must look to her future in the kingdom of Caskentia which is broke. The problem which leads her to seek out a job with the chance of payment. She is so powerful that the leaders of the Waste want her for their own purposes. So powerful that someone wants her dead.
As she begins her journey she crosses paths with several people that take an interest in her. It gets interesting when her roommate is nearly killed and the crew and passengers are poisoned. Most of the crew and passengers are more than they seem.
Fortunately, there is a clockwork dagger there to protect her, but his father was the cause of the destruction of her home. It is hard for her to trust him, but circumstances keep bringing them together.
This story unfolds in the third person as steam power and magic make the world go round. The action follows Octavia as she heals and learns about the new people in her life. Although not completely explained, the magic system seems to stay within a logical set of rules.
The title caught my eye and after reading the description, I was a little intrigued to see how the author would mix the magic and technology. Then in one of her first encounters, Octavia does the illogical but kind thing, only to find out it was a wasted effort. That little twist that showed flawed judgment and the ability to make bad choices sucked me into the story. It can be tiring to have protagonists that always make the right choice.
I was a little hesitant picking up this novel. I have never completely bought into steampunk. This might have to do with the travesty that was The Wild Wild West movie. Maybe unfair to the genre, but smaller things have caused people to avoid novels.
This is the first book in a planned duology. The second novel is The Clockwork Crown set for release in September of 2015. I look forward to the conclusion of the tale, and to see if Octavia can balance her need to help with the realities of the world.