I keep wanting to read Ursula Vernon / T. Kingfisher books. Some have been on my to-do list for years and years, but they’re just not that easy to get your hands on, on this side of the Atlantic anyway. So when I found this on Scribd I just went with it. It’s a duology, with the first one a lot shorter than the second, but it just read very quick overall.
A paladin, an assassin, a forger, and a scholar ride out of town. It’s not the start of a joke, but rather an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. T. Kingfisher’s novel begins the tale of a murderous band of criminals (and a scholar), thrown together in an attempt to unravel the secret of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom that promise ruin to the Dowager’s city.
If they succeed, rewards and pardons await, but that requires a long journey through enemy territory, directly into the capital. It also requires them to refrain from killing each other along the way! At turns darkly comic and touching, Clockwork Boys puts together a broken group of people trying to make the most of the rest of their lives as they drive forward on their suicide mission.
I had a blast reading this series! The narrator, Khristine Vham, really made it so entertaining to listen to, never a boring moment! The characters really came to life and she made the different point of views and voices so strikingly different!
It was funny at times, and dark at other times, but you learn to love the different characters very quickly. I was especially taken in by Slate, who had a strong dark humour and a real sense that she Did Not Want To Be Here. The other characters were interesting too. I did not really enjoy Brenner (the assassin) as such, but his character’s dynamics worked well with the others. Caliban was soppy and understandably traumatised, and Learned Edmund… where do I start? The kid really grew on me, which I did not expect from a character who starts out as a staunch misogynist. It was a wild ride to see him evolve from his sheltered upbringing and learn to respect women. And rise to the occasion in terms of adventuring as well!
The main romance was also really interesting and entertaining, I mean who doesn’t like a bit (a load!) of mutual pining? And on a more general note, I love it when characters just happen to be bisexual, without any fuss made about it, just because.
The heists and jailbreaks were fun, the geeking about cyphers and library indexes also fun, and there was just the right amount of politics (read: criticizing injustices) for my liking.
The first book is a lot shorter, but the cut between the two made absolutely perfect sense, one being the trip to Anuket city and the other being the solving-the-mystery proper. A lot of seemingly random events in the first book also pay off in the latter, so it was really nice to see that unfold, in ways I absolutely did not expect. I found the second book’s pacing was a bit more uneven, but I think that’s in part due to the setting. I had some issues following the last fight, mostly because a lot was happening and audio doesn’t really let you reread passages. I had trouble picturing who was where, but that was only a short term issue.
Overall it was really a comfy, fun fantasy read despite the high stakes, and I was thoroughly happy to have read it. Going to hunt for more T Kingfisher books in the near future!
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