The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
Review By: Dani Long
Man, how to describe this book… It has automatons, secret societies, ancient history. This is really one story being told over two different time periods.
The first begins with the awakening of Peter and his sister, Elena, in early 18th century Russia. Their remains were found in ancient ruins and put back together at the behest of Peter the Great. After Peter the Great’s death in 1725, they are exiled from Russia and work to cut out an inconspicuous immortal life for themselves among humans and use clues to figure out where they came from.
The second story is that of a modern-day human, June. June has dedicated her life to the research of dolls and automatons that were created hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of years before the discovery of electricity. During her research, she gets caught in the crosshairs of a centuries-long war between the two different factions of automatons.
There is a lot to like about this book but I feel like it was very poorly constructed.
First off, the chapters were too short. Each chapter switched between June and Peter. June’s chapters, for the most part, were 3-4 pages long at most. Peter’s were only a little longer at maybe 6-8 pages each. With these chapters being so short, there was not enough time to develop a connection with one character before it switched to the other. As Peter’s chapters were a little longer this wasn’t so much a problem with him as it was for June. It felt like June got almost no character development.
Many of the chapters could have been condensed and I think this would have gone some of the way to helping with this. Also though, June just needed a lot more attention than she got to make her a viable character.
Also, I didn’t end up liking the dual storylines in separate time periods. I can keep up with multiple POVs, that’s not the issue. Maybe this goes back to not being able to develop a connection with June since it seems like we spend barely any time with her, but I felt like the two storylines were too different, too separate. Eventually, they do merge into one storyline but it was just too jarring to have the actual worldbuilding and character development taking place hundreds of years before the actual action.
I think this story would have been much better served by leaving June out of it. The story as it is would have had to be altered as the climax of the story is from her point of view but I think that time that we spent watching her but not actually getting to know her or coming to care about her character would have served the story better by having everything told from Peter’s perspective.
Because Peter and Elena’s story was so much better than June’s. While June’s story goes at a pretty much breakneck pace, Peter and Elena’s spans over a great period of time so we get to see how their longevity effects them and their relationship, how their fear of being discovered drives their decisions and changes over time.
There were some plot twists at the end that redeemed the story a little but there were also some plot holes that bothered me and some of the reveals seemed forced.
Clearly, I can’t say that this is a must read. It was okay but not impressive. It may, however, inspire me to look out for more books about steampunk and/or automatons.