In my review of The Clockwork Dagger, the first book in the Clockwork Dagger duology (and how nice is it to change pace with a duology?), I criticized it for being “eminently put-downable.” Through roughly the first half of The Clockwork Crown, I felt the same way. I was almost ready to give up entirely after a particularly groan-worthy twist. And then things got really, really interesting.
Crown opens right after Dagger closes with Octavia and Alonzo fleeing south from the Waste. They head to Alfonso’s homeland in search of knowledge of the Tree from the south’s famed libraries. And…that’s the weird thing about the above mentioned point where things started to get interesting. They really did, I loved it, and I blazed through the rest of the book. But it sort of discards much of what happens in the first half of the book so I don’t see much point to dwelling on it. Viola Stout also disappears almost entirely, albeit to be replaced with two great characters. On the whole, it really feels like Cato changed her mind about the direction she wanted to take the book but didn’t go back and rewrite the first half to match (and at that point the opportunity to revise the first book had probably passed).
It’s ok, because the second half is so strong and because Crown continues to do well what Dagger did well. Cato avoids fumbling the transition from “will they or won’t they” with Octavia and Alonzo to what can fairly be characterized as a relationship. They’re adorable. Much is revealed about the nature of the Lady and the history of Caskentia and the Waste. The highlight remains Cato’s robust, well thought out system of magical medicine. Medicians place the injured or sick in an enchanted circle and ask for the Lady’s aid. Herbs have specific uses. “Pampria, for blood loss. Bartholomew’s tincture, to repair his chipped ribs. Heskool root, against infection. Bellywood bark, to counteract zymes [germs]. Linsom berries, to mend skin.” Medicians wear clothes enchanted to stay clean and carry wands that remove blood and dirt at a wave. Medicians hear a person’s health as music, discordant if they suffer some ailment. And Octavia, already the most powerful medician in over a generation, begins to hear the health of everyone around her, almost to the point of debilitation (this continues the theme of Octavia’s great distaste for the city).
Disclosure: I received a(n unsolicited) copy of Clockwork Crown from the publisher.