“Deep in the rugged landscape of eastern Oregon, a young anthropologist named June Stefanov uncovers an exquisite artifact – a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll – which is evidence of what she has spent years searching for. This is no ordinary doll…it is proof of a living race of ancient automatons that, she believes, exists to this day. Ingeniously hidden inside the intricate doll is a message, addressed to the court of Peter the Great, czar of Russia.
In 1725 Russia, Peter and Elena, two human-like mechanical beings known as ‘avtomat, ‘ are brought to life under the guise of Peter the Great. Their struggle to serve in the court of the czar while blending in, and to survive amid those who wish to annihilate them, will take Peter and Elena across Russia, Europe, and, ultimately, across the centuries to modern day.
Daniel H. Wilson’s masterful new novel seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings that lives undetected among us. As June learns more about the ‘avtomat’ doll she has discovered, she is quickly drawn into a fierce and poignant battle that has spanned the centuries – and will ultimately affect the survival of this ancient race. In this nuanced, heart-pounding thriller, Daniel H. Wilson expertly incorporates technology, exquisite characters, and breathtaking action. This is Wilson’s most sophisticated and entertaining novel to date. From the Hardcover edition.” (Source: Goodreads)
I’ve been in a reading slump lately, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, I’ve finally finished reading The Clockwork Dynasty, a novel by Daniel H. Wilson. This marks my first foray into the work of steampunk books (believe it or not). I’m not entirely sure how I feel. In some ways, this book is great. In others, not so much.
The Clockwork Dynasty creates an alternative line of history. In this world, machines act under the guise of gods and powerful humans. Using their power, they direct the future of mankind as they see fit. For their own benefit, of course. These machines, or avtomat, seek to prolong their own lives, no matter the cost.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about The Clockwork Dynasty is its lack of originality. Because I haven’t read books like this before, I can’t really weigh in on that opinion. However, I do feel that this is not the best example of steampunk for someone new to the genre. Why? Because it doesn’t have a steampunk feel. Science fiction is about as close as this gets.
Nonetheless, Wilson has created some characters that I have truly fallen in love with. Those that know me personally know I have a special fondness for villains. Leizu, the Worm Mother, is beautifully written and so horribly amazing. As a villain, she balances out the heroes of the story pretty well – though honestly, she strikes me more as misunderstood than truly evil. She’s an embodiment of chaos, after all, and to that form she certainly fits. The main characters, June, Peter, and Elena, are great in their own ways – for the most part. While Peter and Elena are fully fleshed out, I can’t help but feel that June is incomplete.
I’ve been struggling with whether or not to give this book three or four stars. Ultimately, I’ve decided on the former and this is why: it takes too damn long to pick up. Additionally, the flow is horrendous. Each chapter alternates between June and Peter, with June as the present and Peter as the past.
I would like to thank the author, Doubleday, and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.