Today I’m pleased to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for A Clockwork River, a wonderfully unique, interesting and compelling story. You can find out more about why I have enjoyed this book so much below, but first I’d like to say a big thank you to Paige from Head of Zeus for a copy of this beautiful and huge book (it really is big!) and for the chance to be a part of the tour. There are other spots on the tour and I’ve included the banner below too so you can check them out, now let’s see why I liked this story so much!…
Title: A Clockwork River
Author: J. S. Emery
Publisher: Head of Zeus – AdAstra
Genre: Science fiction – hydropunk, Fantasy
Book format: Hardback
Description: A sister searches for her missing brother as a new power rises amid the splendour and the squalor of a once great city in this thrilling hydropunk debut from J.S. Emery.
Lower Rhumbsford is a city far removed from its glory days. On the banks of the great river Rhumb, its founding fathers channelled the river’s mighty flow into a subterranean labyrinth of pipes, valves and sluices, a feat of hydraulic prowess that would come to power an empire. But a thousand years have passed since then, and something is wrong. The pipes are leaking, the valves stuck, the sluices silted. The erstwhile mighty Rhumb is sluggish and about to freeze over for the first time in memory.
In a once fashionable quarter of the once great city, in the once grand ancestral home of a family once wealthy and well-known, live the last descendants of the city’s most distinguished engineer, siblings Samuel and Briony Locke.
Having abandoned his programme in hydraulic engineering, Samuel Locke tends to his vast lock collection, while his sister Briony distracts herself from the prospect of marriage to a rich old man with her alchemical experiments. One night Sam leaves the house carrying five of his most precious locks and doesn’t come back…
As she searches for her brother, Briony will be drawn into a web of ancestral secrets and imperial intrigues as a ruthless new power arises. If brother and sister are to be reunited, they will need the help of a tight-lipped house spirit, a convict gang, a club of antiques enthusiasts, a tribe of troglodytes, the Ladies Whist Club, the deep state, a traveling theatrical troupe and a lovesick mouse.
Epic, rollicking and in love with language, Jacob and Sara Emery’s sprawling debut novel of humble kitchen magics and awe-inspiring civil engineering is a rare and delicious commodity –the world’s first hydropunk novel.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: Wow, this was such a brilliant and interesting read with such a different feel than any book I’ve read before! The city of Lower Rhumsford, once an engineering feat, is now a shadow if its former self, with the once great river Rhumb, which helped to power the whole city, slowing down and becoming sluggish, causing problems for the people living there now. Sam and his sister Briony live in what was once a beautiful and rich mansion but is also a shadow of itself as the family possessions and home are slowly being sold off in pieces to cover debts. One day Briony is busy experimenting in her secret lab and causing all sorts of strange effects on mice when Sam visits her before leaving for a local meeting of the Lock, Key and Fob Club. When Sam gets to the club meeting he’s nervous as he’s to make a speech about some of his most interesting and important locks, but later, once the meeting has ended, Sam is attacked on his way home and disappears.
Well this is certainly an epic book to read at over 700 pages long and is one that I enjoyed from the start although it did take me some time to really get used to the writing style as it’s different from most modern books I read. The story is interesting with Sam’s disappearance beginning a long adventure for all the characters involved including Sam. The story is a detailed one with a lot of characters and a lot happening and the scenes change frequently to show us the different characters involved in the story, but this was very well written and I never found myself confused despite so much detail.
The world of Lower Rhumsford and the surrounding area is such a wonderful and interesting one. With the book set in an early Victorian-style era I really enjoyed the way the world came to life on every page. The details of the city, its inhabitants, both above ground and below, as well as the details of the individuals’ tales were all so absorbing. This being a hydropunk novel means that while the story is set in this steam-era time, the world of Lower Rhumsford is powered by water energy instead. I love how interesting this was and how it affects all the inhabitants of the city in different ways. I especially enjoyed things like the Tube which is a water powered transportation system, similar to the underground Tube in London!
As the story progresses a lot happens to the different characters, including the little lovesick mouse. This really is an adventure of a novel and there are so many things revealed along the way which I just didn’t expect. Every chapter is so interesting due to the narration which is different to many other books and is both a good and bad point about this novel for me. The narrator acts as an additional character almost, telling us the story and speaking to the reader directly making observations which I couldn’t help but enjoy, especially some interesting points about the unfortunate metaphors in one particular paragraph about Captain Muldoon. But while the narration is good and funny, at times it is also a bit tedious as the writing takes on an old-fashion feel like classic books written in the Victorian age or before where the language is a little deep and with words I have to admit I found at times difficult to read. I know a lot of words in the English language but even I had to keep a dictionary close by to look up the odd word which, though it fitting in with the narration style, also led me to sometimes have to re-read parts of a paragraph as I just got lost in such long sentences and slightly overly long observations.
Despite this though, I did get used to this style of narration and the more I progressed in reading the novel, the more interesting and easy it became to read. There was never a dull moment and I did enjoy the different way that the chapters followed the story, sometimes following what our main characters are doing and sometimes starting from an unknown place, like following a letter in the post which leads to a chapter about a certain character. I like what happen to all of the characters, with even the more minor ones having a good story throughout. The book really does have a very dramatic build up towards the ending. So many things are happening and it’s totally absorbing and I love how I just didn’t know what was going to happen in any scene! There are a few shocking moments especially with something near the end that happens underground to a couple of characters.
The ending itself is a good one with some nice things wrapped up about all of the characters. It did feel a bit of an anticlimactic ending though, and I’m not sure why, as things resolved well for most of the characters involved. Maybe it’s the fact that I had spent over 700 pages and quite a lot of my time reading this and wanted much more, or maybe it’s just that I prefer more details in a story at the end about what happened in the minutes and days after the dramatic events in the story, but I just didn’t feel as satisfied with the last chapter and ending as I had hoped to. The story resolves well, as I said, but while the majority of the tale takes place with only a few days difference between chapters, the last chapter fast-forwards about six months and doesn’t give as much information about what happened at the end of some of the characters stories. I’m still left wondering how some of the relationships between the different characters evolved, or didn’t.
The book has a map at the start which is so lovely and detailed. It doesn’t list everywhere mentioned in the story but it’s a lovely touch and I loved constantly referring to it. The cover for the hardback edition has some nice shiny copper coloured parts which make it look beautiful! I like the chapter headers too which give a line about what’s happening in the chapter which sometimes made me laugh. There’s nothing offensive in the story although as I’ve said before a few moments at the end were a bit shocking to read and a little more gruesome in its description than I expected given the rest of the story.
I have really loved reading this quirky and different tale. The book takes time and dedication to read but I can’t help but love how funny and often silly the story got. It’s a truly funny read with the narrator often adding to the humour with the way they explain certain things, like the details about Jack’s character (and body) when he receives some post! The story is so interesting too and really takes you on a journey with these characters who are often so funny and so different to each other. I couldn’t help but be engrossed in this story and even though the writing was a little more difficult to read sometimes, especially when extra long sentences or lesser known words broke the flow of reading for me, the tale is so interesting and different and in a style overall that I enjoyed, with a narrator feeling like their own character, that I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a different fantasy story set in a Victorian-style era. While the ending wasn’t as good as I had hoped and left me wanting to know more, the overall story was very good and things are still resolved for the characters at the end which I am happy about. I look forward to more in the future from these authors, it’s certainly a different and unique book to read and in a style that I’d like to read again (though maybe with a little less of the eccentric language used in the narration!).
Buy the book
About the authors
J. S. Emeryis a brother-sister writing team, born in North Idaho into a homeschooling family of seven children, each of whom received an air rifle and a copy of The Odyssey by way of a fifth birthday present. This background prepared them wonderfully for writing fantasy novels but very poorly for formal education. After dropping out of secondary school, they worked jobs including ballet dancer, emergency room janitor, and map librarian in various parts of Europe and North America. They now live in the United States, where they are godparents (and, increasingly, dungeon masters) to one another’s children
I hope you’ve enjoyed my stop on the tour today and if this sounds like a book you’d like do please check it out. Please do check out the other stops on the tour for this lovely book. I’ve placed the blog tour banners below, yes I’m listed as an Instagram review (oops) but do check out my instagram post for more pictues of this book.
What do you think of this book? Do you like to read long books? What about steampunk style novels? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂
Great review! And I’ve never heard the term ‘hydropunk’ before!
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Thank you! Yes, neither did I, I think they just invented it for this novel as it’s typical steampunk style, but cool to have a new one called hydropunk 😀
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