cover image Clockwork Lives

Clockwork Lives

Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart. ECW (Legato Publishers Group, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $24.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-77041-294-1

After the success of Anderson and Peart’s diverting first fantasy novel, Clockwork Angels, they return to expand the mythology of their steampunk world. Forgoing a recap of the previous novel, this book instead introduces Marinda Peake, a woman unwillingly charged by her late father, an inventor, with seeking out “the true gift of life.” Forced to collect the life stories of others via a magical journal, Peake embarks on wide-ranging adventures that become interspersed with these new tales in a panorama of stories, à la Canterbury Tales. As Peake travels the shores of Albion and beyond, reading the lives of a pickpocket, a bookseller, and a fisherman, she learns that her own life, like the lives she collects, is quickly becoming “a novel no one else has read.” This concept—that all lives share the capacity to become epics—is an especially fine idea for a fantasy, but this book is not up to the challenge. The many stories become repetitious, each narrated in the same flat voice. The prose is mundane where it should take flight. The book may preach the importance of storytelling, but it’s held back by the limits of its own style. Agent: John Silbersack, Trident Media Group. (Sept.)