RogerBW's Blog

Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire, Dru Pagliassotti 12 April 2020

2014 steampunk fantasy romance, third in the Clockwork Heart trilogy. Taya and Cristof are on a diplomatic mission to Alzana, trying to prevent a war, when the Alzanan coup is launched, and of course as dubious foreigners they get blamed for the assassination of the royal family…

But this isn't a story about being cut off in a hostile land. Indeed, at first it's not clear what sort of story it's trying to be: swashbuckling sky-borne adventure? Diplomatic manoeuvres? A critique of the caste-system and governance of Ondinium? Any of these could have made for an interesting book, but the way they're mixed together none of them really gets enough development.

Then things move on to the Cabisi Islands, more technologically advanced than the other powers but with a system of governance that stops them from joining in other people's wars (except for selling them weapons). Exploring that could have been an interesting volume in an ongoing series.

But then it's off again, with an Alzanan princess who's one of the last survivors of the royal family (and there's some good stuff here about the fine shadings between "honoured guest", "guest but we won't divert the ship to take you where you want to go", and "hostage"); Taya gets captured by the Alzanans, and there's some solid procedural steampunk battling in a hidden tunnel system; then the Alzanans are attacking the city with their devastating Cabisi terror weapons…

Too much happening, I think. I don't mind action, but I like the people here and I want to see more of them when they aren't under the stress of combat.

Taya and Cristof are still the heart of things, and they have realistic problems and work them out. That's great. But the rest didn't grab me all that much. The first book in this series was superb, which gave the second and third a hard act to follow, and they don't quite manage it; the frustrating thing is that I can picture the book I did want to read, and it's not all that different from this one. But the framing of war twists everything out of shape and cuts off peaceful interactions that would have been more fun to read about.

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Previous in series: Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind | Series: Clockwork Heart

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