Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today is my stop on the blog tour for A Clockwork River. Written by brother-sister team and published by Head of Zeus, this modern epic novel is out in time for some Christmas gifts – because you will all know someone who will enjoy this book.
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, Bryony 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.
Steampunk fiction is very much a thing I am aware of, but not something I’ve particularly engaged with, so I was incredibly curious when given the option to review a hydropunk book, because I am nothing if not completely nosy at all times.
The meandering style of the novel flows like the river itself, and at times reminded me of books such as Les Miserables. Various chapters follow different characters and events, allowing time and space for them to blend together and create a bigger picture, and things that might not originally seem to be connected link in further along the journey.
Told with wit and curiosity, we follow the paths of Briony and Samuel – amongst others – as they are faced with various perils and impositions, and the dynamic between them shifts throughout. Briony is worried about Samuel, but also experiences periods of frustration with him in his absence when she thinks about how he could have done more to prevent the situation the family are facing financially. All the while, Briony is facing the pressures of being a young woman in a society where she is expected to conform… when really, she just wants to mix chemicals and experiment on mice.
Overall, the book lends itself to people and places of all kinds, and will be one that is held in the mind for a long time to come.
About the Authors
J.S. Emery is 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.
Thank you so much for stopping by, and thank you so much to Head of Zeus for the beautiful copy of A Clockwork River. The book is out now!