Tuesday, July 15, 2008

“Clockwork Heart” by Dru Pagliassotti

Taya soars over Ondinium on metal wings. She is an icarus — a courier privileged to travel freely across the city’s sectors and mingle indiscriminately among its castes. But even she can’t outfly the web of terrorism, loyalty, murder, and intrigue that snares her after a daring mid-air rescue. Taya finds herself entangled with the Forlore brothers, scions of an upperclass family: handsome, brilliant Alister, who sits on the governing council and writes programs for the Great Engine; and awkward, sharp-tongued Cristof, who has exiled himself from his caste and repairs clocks in Ondinium’s lowest sector. Both hide dangerous secrets, in this city that beats to the ticking of a clockwork heart…
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The world-building is rich, delightful, fresh and fascinating. The republic of Ondinium is named after the metal it mines and that is responsible for its success and prosperity. Ondinium is a Wellsian type metal like Cavorite, lighter then air, and allows the icarii to fly using mechanical wings fashioned from the material. The city’s ruling council uses the Great Engine, a giant steam powered mechanical computer that literally fills the hollow mountain on which the city is built, as a mechanical advisor in the governance of the nation. It is what gives Ondinium its advantage over rival nations. And rival nations want both the metal and the secret of the difference engines.

Ondinium society consists of three separate classes, Exalteds (elite ruling class), Cardinals (professionals) and Plebeians (working class) that in general do not mix or intermarry. They also live in different sectors of the city. Icarii are couriers who through the nature of their jobs have need and reason to cross all of the boundaries and mix with everyone.

During a routine flight Taya performs a daring rescue of an Exalted and her child from the wireferry, the city transportation system (think cablecars) when it is damaged by a terrorist bombing. And thus Taya’s adventure begins. All of the main characters are unique and interesting and even the minor characters have substance.

Fans of solid fantasy, steampunk or writers like China Miéville (though not quite as intense or quirky) will like this. Highly recommended.

For a preview check out the first chapter of the novel here.

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