The Clockwork Crown (6/2015) (FINAL)
Narrowly surviving assassination and capture, Octavia Leander, a powerful magical healer, is on the run with handsome Alonzo Garrett, the Clockwork Dagger who forfeited his career with the Queen’s secret society of spies and killers—and possibly his life—to save her. Now, they are on a dangerous quest to find safety and answers: Why is Octavia so powerful? Why does she seem to be undergoing a transformation unlike any witnessed for hundreds of years?
As the first novel ended, Octavia and Alonzo were on the run, pursued by both sides: the Caskentians, who want to kill them both, and the Wasters, who want to kill Alonzo and force Octavia to use her powers against Caskentia. As this novel begins, the couple arrives at the boundary of Tamarania, one of the Southern Nations, where they hope to sneak into that country's vast libraries so that Octavia can learn more about the Lady, Her history, and Her powers. From that point on, the pair is constantly in danger from a variety of enemies, including a train car filled with women who want Octavia to heal them and a Caskentian Dagger who wants to kill Alonzo.
The events of their journey sometimes separate the two, which—although frightening for both—does cause them to realize their deep love for one another. (Although once again, they exchange only a kiss, nothing more.) In the course of their adventures, they meet up again with some old friends (like Mrs. Stout) and some old enemies (like Lanskay, the Waster who burned them both the last time they met).
The dangerous journey is, of course, important to the plot, but what is at the center of things is Octavia's ever-growing power and the fact that her body is going through some ominous changes (which I cannot describe here because it would be a SPOILER). Needless to say, she is desperate to find some ancient texts that will tell her what is going on and how to deal with it. The final chapters are quite mystical as Octavia learns more about her destiny and tries to deal with its implications.
There are many suspenseful moments throughout the story, but there are plenty of heartbreaking ones as well, particularly those involving Octavia's pet gremlin, Leaf, and Jasmine, the white mare who twice carries Octavia to safety. There are also some tender moments between Octavia and a new ally whom she rescues from a dark and rotting prison. And let's not forget the budding romance between Octavia and Alonzo, which goes into full blossom as the story advances. As Octavia puts it: "She was in love with a half-Caskentian, half-Tamaran former apprentice Clockwork Dagger, a temporary airship steward, a man with a maniac of a sister and a regal mother, and a peculiar knack for sewing." (You'll meet both the sister and the mother in the second half of the story, and you'll find out what he sews, and why.)
All of the questions left unanswered at the end of novel one are taken care of by the end of the book. Does Octavia get a chance to confront Miss Percival about her betrayal? Will the questions about the royal family be answered? Will Octavia run out of leaves from the Lady's tree before she can save the lives of every ally who is fatally injured during their ongoing adventures? Why are Octavia's powers changing so rapidly? And what's with her skin "rash"? Do we ever meet the Lady in person? Will Octavia and Alonzo achieve their HEA? Yes, they are all answered.
Cato has created a fresh and inventive world that goes beyond the usual fantasy tropes, particularly in this novel. Although you'll probably be able to predict the solution to Octavia's huge dilemma at the very end of the book, that doesn't really take anything away from the final resolution, which is quite satisfying. If you enjoy romantic fantasy, I recommend this series. To read an excerpt from The Clockwork Crown, click HERE to go to the book's Amazon.com page and click on the cover art.
Olivia and her fellow medicians hear pain as discordant music, and they analyze those sounds to diagnose injuries, determine the necessary medications, and monitor the healing process. Their healing powers rely on a combination of prayers to the Lady and the application of various herb-based concoctions to the victim's wounds. One other characteristic of the medicians is that they have a wax-plugged open wound in one of their arms and are periodically required by the Lady to bleed themselves. These blood-lettings are sacrificial offerings to the Lady: "Octavia peeled back the wax. Blood immediately welled along the fingernail-size cut, and she angled her arm so it dripped between the wagon slats to the dirt below. The pressure in her arm eased, blood slowing, as a single blade of grass thrust up through the gap in the wood. Her offering was accepted." (The Clockwork Dagger, p. 7)
NOVEL 1: The Clockwork Dagger
I would not classify this series as a paranormal romance, because the romance definitely is not the primary focus of the plot. I'd call this novel a steampunk fantasy with a very light touch of romance. Octavia and Alonzo share just one quick kiss with a promise for more in the next book. Although some of the characters and plot elements are familiar tropes, the author puts them together in a manner that is enjoyable and fast-paced. The ending leaves Octavia and Alonzo's safety situation and their personal relationship unresolved in a riding-off-into-the-sunset-together sort of way. We'll have to wait until next summer for The Clockwork Crown to find out what happens to them and to Caskentia. Click HERE to read the first chapter of The Clockwork Dagger.