This review is something of a departure for this blog, because The Clockwork Giant and its sequel, Le Theatre Mechanique, are not fantasy properly so called; they are young-adult steampunk, classic variety, set in Victorian England, with no magic, quasi-humans, deities or devils or superbeings, or fantasy elements generally involved. I’m doing this because I loved the first book, but there’s also a certain amount of crossover in the sense of wonder elicited by the splendid mechanical devices involved in the story.
I’m going to give The Clockwork Giant 5 stars, something I very rarely do. My rules on this remain what they have always been. I look at the plot/story, the characters, and the writing, and base the review on how many of these exceed the average and by how much. If none of them do, I don’t review the book. If one does, I’ll usually give it a 3-star; if two do, 4, and only if all three are superior (or two of them by a tremendous degree) will I give a book 5 stars. In The Clockwork Giant, Brooke Johnson has given us a wonderfully intense, gripping story, fascinating characters, and magnificent prose.
I will admit that I found the main character, Petra Wade, irritating at times in her indecisiveness and her tendency to distrust people who didn’t deserve that. But that is a believable part of her character arising from her background. The character is splendidly developed, believable, and mostly likeable, with the unlikeable parts serving to render her more real and true. The story is intense, with plenty of danger, bad breaks, sudden turns, and hopeless fixes. (Someday I would like to write a story this perfect in its timing and flow.) The one thing that could have been better about it was the ending, and yet that sets the stage for a sequel to continue the main story, which I hope that Ms. Johnson will write in a sequel one of these days.
The language is beautifully done, especially for a young adult book. I especially liked Petra’s rather unusual and unique expressions of her passion for Emmerich on a physical level. I mean, it’s not typical for a woman to be aroused by the smell of machine oil. Or at least that has not been my experience, but then, I’ve never met a woman like Petra, so doubtless my experience is inadequate to judge in this instance. The descriptions of working on clockwork mechanisms and the joy that this brought to Petra, as well as her boredom with non-mechanical technology such as steam power, was also well turned.
All in all, I can recommend The Clockwork Giant without reservation.
You can buy the book at Amazon Kindle Store for $2.99, and it’s also available in print for $9.99.