6 November 2011

Review: Clockwork Heart

Clockwork Heart, by Dru Pagliassotti
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Steampunk, Romance
Published: April 2008
Pages: 390
My Rating: 

The story about Taya the ‘Icarus’ (a messenger flying across the city of Ondinium, on wings made of the feather-light metal ondium) starts mid-flight. Literally. On her way to deliver a message, Taya rescues Viera Octavus, one of the so-called ‘exalted’, and her son from an almost-crashing wire ferry. Because of her husbands political importance this may not have been an accident.
Shortly after the wire ferry crash, Taya meets the 2 Forlore brothers who turn out to be Viera’s cousins. The intelligent, handsome, charming Alister and his seemingly socially inadequate brother Cristof (who voluntarily gave up his caste to work as a clock writher in Tertius). Alister easily sweeps Taya off her feet, especially at the ball thrown at the Octavus Estate in her honour. The relationship with Cristof slowly evolves due to his difficult, closed character and Taya’s distrust of him because of the way he acts/does.

Ondinium is a city powered by the great Engine, running on an ondium core. It’s divided into three sectors: Primus, Secundus an Tertius. Its inhabitants are also divided into different castes: ranging from the rich and noble born exalteds to poor labourers. Because of their importance to society, Icarii like Taya are not bound to their caste. Seeing how Taya grew up in Tertius, it means she has far more freedom.

I loved the flying lessons Taya gave! Don’t worry, I won’t tell to whom, but that really was a great scene with so much emotion! Fear, relieve, patience and then something more…;) No sappy romance there, merely a refreshing and real passage. There were many other moments I had to laugh out loud because of some –awkward, sarcastic or sweet- dialogues.

Taya is a lovable character; she’s brave, curious, ambitious, funny and down-to-earth despite being up in the air most of the time. The feelings/relationships she develops or already has, don’t feel forced. I could easily relate to her crush on Alister, as well as her annoyance with Cristof.
Alister (being an ‘exalted’ means he’s forced to hide his face behind a mask in public) seems like the actual Prince Charming with his perfect looks and charisma. Until another side of him surfaces from behind his mask...
Cristof really does seem to be the ‘awkward crow’ Taya so lovingly describes him as. Always dressed in black, with sharp edges both outside as well as inside. His grumpiness is funny, painful, sarcastic and pitiful at times. But his righteousness can be felt.

The setting is very original in my opinion and well thought through. It’s not just a flat cartoonish background, but has actual depth because of the social castes and political scams, etc. This could be a real functioning society. I do miss some more elaborate world building. The strange terms and surroundings that are Ondinium are being strewn around without much explanation or history, making it hard to envision some things clearly. Another example of the lack of description concerns some of the characters. I’m not quite sure how Taya looks (definitely NOT like the cover girl!) or what age she has.
Besides the occasional difficult words (English is not my native tongue though, so…), the story read away pleasant and easily. The writing was fluid. Something exciting happened most of the time, whereas other chapters seemed to drag on a bit. It was not epic though, nor earth shattering or renewing enough to blow one away. In its genre this is kind of a mediocre story, a nice way to spend your time surrounded by pretty pictures (like the ball, again…!). A couple of days ago I read/finished The Iron Thorn and that felt so much more original and written so much stronger when it came to world building and plot. (Maybe because it was a set-up for a much more epic plot, a first part in the series.)

The plot took a turn I wasn’t happy with and couldn’t believe either. I didn’t want to believe it, I mean. Did not see it coming, or did not want to see it coming, maybe. But after a while, the story felt better and more natural. However, I didn’t find the plot that interesting. It was not exciting enough, I wanted it to be over with. It kinda dragged on after it seemed to be over and got confusing to me with the new side-plot and somewhat dry info. I caught myself skimming the pages, wondering how much longer it would take until things got resolved. Since I did care for Taya, Cristof and Alister, they were the main reason I kept reading.

The world and characters were the book’s strong points in my opinion, whereas the plot lacked a bit.

After finishing I was kinda sad to leave Ondinium, Taya, Cristof and the others behind. I really liked them and would like to know how the story continues. The ending wasn’t really open, it was happy and conclusive enough. But, the story offered more, Ondinium is a strange an interesting place and Taya’s journey has only just begun. Both are interesting enough to read more about. Since I heard Dru is already writing the next instalment, that's a good thing :)


  1. I was just browsing and came across your site. Haven't read the books you discuss, but reading your analysis is like reading a story itself. Fun to read and I may have to pick up one of them soon. Thanks for the fun read!

    - Matt

  2. Hi Matt,

    Thanx for making the first comment on my blog, and for your compliment! (Or insult, I can't seem to keep my reviews shorter than novella's, LOL...) I love to write myself as much as I love to read, so there you have it! Though to me, my reviews seem a bit dry still.

    Perhaps you can suggest some books you have read or want to, so I could look into them as well?

    See you around then, maybe.


  3. Compliment for sure. I'm not so bad as to drop in a hello amidst sarcastic undertones haha. And trust me, if you read reviews a lot, which I do, you learn very quickly who spent time reading and who didn't.

    I actually read pretty much everything. I just graduated with a degree in Literary Arts (halfway between fiction writing and fiction reading if you will), so I have quite the expansive reading list. Though a lot of my interest is with Morrison, Faulkner, Hawthorne, Poe, etc. I do read quite a bit of speculative fiction, though as well (Name of the Wind, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, each having raged across the country).

    I'll cut this comment to a close though, seeing as it's struggling to be 'shorter than novellas' haha. Just don't want to clutter your page too much. Feel free to email me though if you'd like. smokeandrainblog@gmail.com

  4. Some people may have spent time reading, but don't know how to put their thoughts in words... (Some so-called 'authors' are troubled by that too, unfortunately...LOL)

    Wow, Literary Arts sounds like something I would like very much! I was stupid enough to not pursue a study after my initial choice (Journalism) didn't come through, so now I'm stuck in a dental laboratory making porcelain teeth... It's nice and crafty though, I love all things crafty anyway. But lately I wish I'd done something that could make me become a librarian or translator of books or a real writer. Sure, I dabble with stories, but still...
    I bet you have had to read many books then, and analyze them. Also I bet there weren't many YA books on there ;) So you're more into the classics with a bit of dystopian/fantasy.

    Oh you're welcome to clutter my page anytime, it's not like there are many others out there doing it, so... :) But perhaps another way of discussing would be better indeed... ;)


You're amazing, thanx for your input! :)