I rarely go on vacation, but when I do, I like to read lighter, yet interesting, novels. It wasn’t hard to pick one for this trip, as Shelley Adina’s The Clockwork City had made it to the top of the list. Set in the Magnificent Devices universe, it follows the story of the recently widowed Lady Georgia Brunel and her aunt, Millicent Brunel, as they take a painting holiday in Venice. A city set upon a series of clockwork gears and engines, it moves at regular intervals as a means of defense. In this steampunk incarnation, the canals are not only filled with water, but with mysterious and possibly dangerous krakens.
Their days are filled with social engagements and sightseeing, until an inappropriate overture by the married Sir Francis Thorne and a meeting with a handsome Texican hint at secrets that hadn’t been on their to-do list. None of this was a problem until the dead body of Sir Francis washes up near the water stairs of their villa and the attempted kidnapping of his young daughter, Cora. After these events, their vacation takes an unexpected turn, especially since the Duchy of Venice considers Georgia the prime suspect for Sir Francis’ murder.
As usual, Ms. Adina has written a delightful novel that is fun and entertaining; however, what is even more important is that she does not shy away from the subject of domestic abuse. It isn’t the focus of the story, but it does determine how the character of Georgia reacts to certain situations. She’s not one to trust men easily, even when they are kind, courteous, and clearly interested in her. It all makes perfect sense considering the trauma she has been through. I also found it refreshing to read something where the main characters are “women of a certain age.” I’m guessing Georgia is in her late thirties to early forties, while her aunt is in her fifties. Both women have agency, intelligence, and the backbone to use them. Being women and products of their social class, they are limited in their ability to be taken seriously by those in charge which makes the conflict organic.
The only part which seemed a bit convenient were the krakens. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but their place in this world felt a tad contrived. I still liked them, but I wonder if their true nature could have been dealt with differently.
The characters of Cora and her mother Lady Thorne are ripe for a series of their own, as well as the Texican and his son, but I have a feeling Ms. Adina may have already thought of that. And look out for the chickens. There are always chickens.
This is the first book in a two-part series.
Creative Team: Shelley Adina (writer)
Publisher: Moonshell Books, Inc.
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