Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

Juno

Science Fiction/Fantasy Romance

ISBN: 978-0-8095-7256-4

Reviewed by Chris

   

 

Taya is an icarus, a person who’s managed to pass the tests to become a privileged, winged, message carrier. This gift allows her to transcend her country’s closely regulated caste system. Citizens are tattooed according to class, the lowest working in the mines and factories, while the highest lead the Council. Above it all ticks the Great Engine, a massive machine programmed to guide and rule the people, from the number of widgets that should be made on a particular day, to the job a person is suited for. Taya, as an icarus, bears no tattoos and no responsibilities for the Great Engine’s functioning until the day she saves the lives of two Exalted.

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.

     

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