This is really two pairs of connected steampunk stories. The first two center around Jacques Charlay and his store, A Ticking Clockwork. The second two deal with steampunk nuns and monks on a quest.
The stories are fast-paced and full of the gadgetry one expects in the genre. The first pair, where steam and mechanics interact with time is a fascinating tour. Don’t think too deeply just let the fantastical sweep over you. The best part is the description of how Mr. Charlay’s workshop is really, for lack of better terms, a clock that is so efficient it saves time.
Our narrator is an engineer who has the wonderment of a student discovering new things to build on what he already knows. You feel, along with him, those exciting moments of, “Really? I never knew that!”
The second pair is a unique twist on a crime story. There are gadgets, of course, from the TOD (Tesla Oscillator Device) to the Keeper’s Urn, and many others, small and large. The unique twist is that the crime is stealing an old-fashioned scroll and the people tasked with its retrieval are a bunch of classical monks, robes and all, and four nuns who are a bit more classical steam-punk.
These two tales seem a bit more rushed; a bit less polished than the first pair. However the story moves along at a fast clip and is full of ingenious magic (touched with belief) and plenty of gadgets! There is the sharp edge of creativity but the characters do not take the time to develop.
If you like steam punk with a twist, especially time-bending steampunk, these stories are recommended!
K. M. Warfield has created an enjoyable fast-paced, tightly crafted high fantasy story. Magic abounds and the gods frequently come to visit our protagonists – a group of five adventurers who carry the fate of Avoch with them.
The novel weaves several threads deftly from start to finish. There is prejudice and coming of age and finding and building dear friendships. There is the duality of life – one’s private self and the public face we often have to put on for others. All of this is done with a light hand that makes the reader grow with the characters; and despise those that fail to advance.
Religion is also a theme. Avoch is polytheistic and the gods often come visit our characters, to give advice, education, and tools. All of them also demand, in return, devotion and service. Again, this part of the world is dealt with matter-of-factly and lightly; the reader feels no proselytizing or pedantry.
Avoch has more magic than I have ever seen in high fantasy. All our adventurers can wield it. There are magical rooms and traps and devices. Of course, the gods have abundant magic. Finally, so do all the primary villains. Drogon has a machine in the first half that is simply a brilliant creation by Ms. Warfield!
I do have two minor complaints. One, there be no dragons. In actuality, there are very few “monsters” that are not humanoid. Second, there are small leaps in time. At one point the group decides to head for some caves to shelter. The next paragraph Thia is waking up in the cave.
Neither of these detracts from the story.
K. M. Warfield’s Scales and Stingers is highly recommended! Available for pre-order now. Available in stores and on-line March 14.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)