An alternate Victorian world with clock towers and time magic sounds very, very cool. It’s why I picked up Timekeeper by Tara Sim the moment it was released.
Right from the start, the book charms with an interesting protagonist. Danny Hart, a prodigy clock mechanic, suffers from PTSD and the loss of his father. Both of these aspects are well-delivered, believable and make Danny who he is at this point of his story.
And it is at this dire time that he meets Colton, a clock spirit. As in, an actual soul of a clock, not some random ghost haunting the tower. Sparks fly, much kissing happens. While their love turned out to be disappointingly instantaneous, for the most part, I managed to not mind it that much. Because of Colton, because of what he is, and because Danny and he did have their ridiculously sweet moments. That didn’t involve kissing.
What I couldn’t ignore is the lack of time magic that is there, in that Victorian world, but not here, on the pages of the book. (Random bits of ancient gods notwithstanding because they were downright boring and did not deserve their own POV chapters.)
The beauty of steampunk, in my opinion, is the atmosphere. When done fantastically, it captivates. And can even disguise whatever weaknesses the book might have. Like magic
Timekeeper has little atmosphere. The only indicators of England are: a) Big Ben b) tea c) scones. The only signs of steampunk: automobiles and clockwork. The rest is Danny going from one place to another, mostly talking to people, sometimes kissing people, and occasionally punching people.
In addition, the plot wanders. It’s hard to grasp what exactly is the plot because there is constantly something blocking the view. There is a bit about Danny’s dad, a bit about building a clock tower, another bit about bombings and a big chunk of romance. And there are so many mechanics surrounding Danny, who don’t seem particularly interesting or important. Except Danny starts to suspect some of them, and you just go huh who’s that have I seen you before. But even then, they still feel like background decor.
It was only during the last 50 pages or so that the plot smacked me in the face and things kind of… run from there. Suddenly, there was a villain. A murder plot. A thievery. Someone on the verge of dying. The end of the world looming. Time magic. All that good stuff that should have been more present from the start.
As much I wanted to like Timekeeper for the originality, something is just missing from it. Like a cog from a clock. It has its charms, it has its moments, and it certainly has its protagonist. But it doesn’t make you want to turn the pages. It doesn’t have magic.
Timekeeper by Tara Sim
on November 8th 2016
Young Adult, Steampunk
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Two o’clock was missing.
In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time--and a destroyed one can stop it completely.
It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.
And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.
But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.
Have you checked out Timekeeper by Tara Sim yet? What is your opinion on steampunk and its atmosphere? How important is it to you? Can you deal with the lack of it?