Le Theatre Mechanique, the second book in Brooke Johnson’s Chroniker City universe, was a slight disappointment after the splendid achievement represented by The Clockwork Giant. It’s still worth a read, but it needs a round of copy-editing and the story could be better paced and developed. The characters and language are both superb, and for that I’m going to give it four stars.
Le Theatre Mechanique does not continue the story that was left unresolved at the end of The Clockwork Giant, but instead follows Petra’s adopted brother Solomon Wade in his pursuit of a career in acting. The situation is complicated by a sick child in the household which cannot afford the medicine and treatment she needs to have a good chance of survival, plus the situation of a young actress at the theater, who is being dominated and exploited by an actor who is also the son of the theater’s owner. The characters are all well developed. Solomon’s theatrical ambitions and his deep uncertainty and insecurity about them are sides of him that didn’t emerge in the earlier book. The reflections on the harsh cruelty and elitism of Victorian society are well played also: subtle and biting both.
It’s a good enough story, but lacks the tension-building that makes for a truly great story. Still, it held my attention all the way through, and I cared very much about what happened to Solomon, the little girl, and the actress.
The main reason I found Le Theatre Mechanique a bit disappointing is that the copy-editing seemed unfinished. A good example is the description of the young actress’ smile. Her smile “showed the gap between her teeth” every time she smiled. This was a good phrase to use once, or maybe twice. But it should have been edited out of all of her subsequent smiles, or at least most of them. I knew by that time that she had a gap between her teeth. I didn’t need a reminder, and that was quite distracting. There were a few comparable errors of style and wording scattered through the book, all of them fixable with a round of editing. This is entirely correctable, and hopefully it will be rectified in future editions.
I can still recommend the book, although not as highly as I can the first in the series.
You can buy Le Theatre Mechanique for $2.99 at the Amazon Kindle Store, and it’s also available in print for $5.99.