Timekeeper

timekeeper

Timekeeper was first published in 2016 and is Tara Sim’s debut novel. It is a steampunk fantasy which focus on the relationship between a young mechanic and the spirit possessing a clock tower. The book is the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no other instalments have been announced.

For as long as anyone can remember, the clock towers have regulated the flow of time. People live in fear of them ever becoming damaged as if a clock tower ever stops, the surrounding area also becomes frozen in time and completely cut off from the outside world. To prevent this from happening, the towers are maintained by a guild of mechanics, each blessed with the ability to sense and manipulate the threads of time.

Danny Hart is a prodigy. At the age of seventeen, he is the youngest person to ever graduate as a mechanic. That is, until his accident. Although Danny manages to survive an explosion at a clock tower that he has been sent to repair, he’s left traumatised and unable to perform even the most basic of duties. This is a problem. The guild has commenced work on the first brand-new clock tower in centuries and he needs to be part of the construction team. His father’s life could depend on it.

To prove that he is fit to work, Danny accepts an assignment to repair a damaged tower. Yet the apprentice who is assigned to help him quickly proves to know next to nothing about mechanics. It’s not long before Danny realises why. Colton isn’t an apprentice at all, but the guardian spirit of the clock tower. It’s not long before Danny and Colton start to fall in love. Yet it’s expressly forbidden for a mechanic to develop feelings for a clock spirit. Danny knows that their bond can only end in disaster. At best, it could cost him his job. At worst, it could endanger the lives of everyone living in the town…

Timekeeper is the sort of novel that I find the most difficult to review. Before I begin, I’d like to admit that I found this story utterly addictive. The book itself has become a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I truly did love reading it, even though I have to admit that it was far from perfect. Yet I do try to be as objective as possible on this blog so I’m going to try my best to discuss this story’s biggest strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s begin with something positive. The concept of Timekeeper is certainly its strongest point. Seriously, I wish that I’d been the one to think of it. The idea of a world where clock towers control time (rather than measure it) is truly memorable. Although steampunk novels can sometimes be very technical, Timekeeper has more in common with a faerie tale. It’s light and very readable, neatly blending steampunk, science fiction and fantasy themes in a way that’s readily accessible to any reader.

Yet beyond the originality of the concept, the plot itself felt very awkward. The book was slow moving and I felt as though its scope was far too narrow. Early chapters reveal the fact that not everyone is happy with the status quo. Protestors gather outside the guild’s headquarters, convinced that the clock towers are unnecessary and even going so far as to threaten bodily injury against mechanics. This builds a sense of threat in the novel, yet it’s never really explored any further than this. We never discover why the protestors believe that the towers are unnecessary, or why they think that destroying them will achieve anything beyond stopping the towns that they regulate. I don’t object to the idea of the protests but don’t really understand why it’s included in this story, when ultimately it serves no purpose.

The twist of the novel was also unsatisfying. The true villain (as far as they could be called such) was transparently obvious from early in the story, yet their motivation was just weak. I can’t really talk about it too much here for fear of spoilers, but if I was to describe their grand plan in a word it would be “impractical”. I understand their goals but the way that they went about achieving them was unrealistic. Blowing up towers was pure misdirection – it was creepy and threatening at first but, when the villains secret is revealed, you just realise that this method is overly complicated and dangerous.

I also felt that the novel wrapped up far too quickly and neatly. After a very slow start, virtually all of the loose threads are tied up within the last chapter. While it’s a pleasant ending, I must admit that I was unsatisfied. The early chapters kind of implied that Danny couldn’t hope to have a happy ending, but he still manages to fall into one with remarkable ease. Yet the ending did at least carry one final sting to tie into a sequel. While this did come out of left field in the final few pages, I am still curious to find out how Sim will develop this in her next novel.

However, if you’re a fan of romance novels, you won’t be disappointed. The two protagonists of the story are particularly likable and the best scenes were the ones that showed him and Colton drawing closer. While there are occasional dark moments, for the most part this is handled in a very sweet way. Even though Danny is immediately attracted to Colton, their trust is slow to develop and so feels very natural.

Danny is probably the most interesting character in the novel. As the focus, he is sympathetic and always felt very genuine. His many imperfections – his awkward relationship with his mother, his sense of guilt and inadequacy, his short temper – just made him seem even more human. I found his motivations very easy to understand and it wasn’t long before I found myself rooting for him.

Since Danny’s attitude was often mournful and pessimistic, Colton made a great romantic counterpart. Although he is also flawed (Colton is particularly prone to jealousy and can be surprisingly selfish at times), for the most part his childlike innocence served to counteract and heal Danny’s grief. While I’m not usually a fan of romance novels, I found any scene where Danny and Colton were alone together to be utterly compelling.

Yet I wish that more time had been spent fleshing out the secondary cast. As so much time was spent developing Danny and Colton, the rest just didn’t get a lot of time to shine. Both Daphne and Cassie do have their roles to play in the climax but they ultimately didn’t have much of an impact on the story before this. The side-lining of the female characters was one of my biggest disappointments with the story as both seemed to be strong and interesting characters. Sim just didn’t give them the focus that they deserved.

I guess that’s a good point to wrap things up. Ultimately, I did really enjoy this novel and am looking forward to the sequel. However, I don’t think that this is the kind of story that will appeal to everyone. The book was far from perfect and, beyond the excellent concept and protagonists, it didn’t have a lot of substance. Hopefully, this will be the kind of thing that Sim can improve upon as she continues to develop Danny’s world.

Timekeeper can be purchased as a Hardback and eBook from Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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