Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 250 Pages
At a Glance: I think Heidi Cullinan has just scratched the surface of this world, and I truly can’t wait to see more!
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Love, adventure and a steaming good time.
As the French army leader’s bastard son, Cornelius Stevens enjoys a great deal of latitude. But when he saves an enemy soldier using clockwork parts, he’s well aware he risks hanging for treason. That doesn’t worry him half as much, however, as the realization he’s falling for his patient.
Johann Berger never expected to survive his regiment’s suicide attack on Calais, much less wake up with mechanical parts. To avoid discovery, he’s forced to hide in plain sight as Cornelius’s lover—a role Johann finds himself taking to surprisingly well.
When a threat is made on Cornelius’s life, Johann learns the secret of the device implanted in his chest—a mythical weapon both warring countries would kill to obtain. Caught up in a political frenzy, in league with pirates, dodging rogue spies, mobsters and princesses with deadly parasols, Cornelius and Johann have no time to contemplate how they ended up in this mess. All they know is, the only way out is together—or not at all.
Warning: Contains tinkers, excessive clockwork appendages, and a cloud-sweeping tour of Europe. A little absinthe, a little theft, a little exhibitionism. Men who love men, women who love women, and some who aren’t particular.
Review: “Clockwork is so beautifully simple. It’s people who are complicated.”
Intrigue, espionage, pirates, revolutionaries, and romance – steampunk style. The backdrop is early twentieth century Europe, France and Austria are at war, and at the center of it all, are our exhibitionist tinker-surgeon and his rescued soldier. Sounds good, right?
Clockwork Heart is not only Heidi Cullinan’s first steampunk novel, it was mine as well. I knew the style – we’ve all seen the costumes – but, I honestly had NO idea what to expect from this genre of spec fic. I’m happy to report that I highly enjoyed it! Being familiar with her work, I had no doubt that I would like it; as always, the characters are likeable and the storytelling compelling. It was definitely good fun. I wanted to do something different with the review, though, so here we go:
Clockwork Heart Top Ten:
1. Conny – I enjoyed all of the characters for various reasons, but Cornelius was definitely my favorite. He was so many things…sassy, smart, funny, fierce, loving…He knew what he wanted and went after it. I loved his joie de vivre and his no-shame, sexy, playful attitude. And, a tinker-surgeon? How cool is that? That the entire plot revolved around his spur-of-the-moment decision to give Johann the clockwork heart was fantastic.
2. Johann – This guy…This guy was sweet. So sweet. At only eighteen, he was definitely naïve about many things, but I loved how trusting he was, while still being vulnerable at the same time. His character also showed the most growth throughout the story. Johann really blew me away in the last third of the book; he had some amazing, powerful moments.
3. Val – Valentin was completely fabulous. Incredibly loyal, and protective of Conny, he made a big impression in the beginning of the book. Sadly, though, he basically disappeared in the middle third. I hope it was because Heidi Cullinan is saving him for the next book!! *crosses fingers* He made a comeback (I have a highlight and note at 67% that says “Finally! Val is back.”) in the final third and I was digging him again, but sadly, I felt he was underused.
4. The Clockwork/Steampunk elements – As I said, this was my first steam punk book, so I thought everything was very cool. I especially loved the care Cornelius took in his work – particularly all the clockwork he gave Johann – and found every aspect of it, from design right on down to repair, so fascinating. When the story took the crew to Naples, we got to see the many different roles for tinkers – tinker-engineers, tinker-mechanics, and electronic tinkers – and I delighted in it right along with Conny.
5. The Intrigue – The storyline itself was so well thought-out and well-written. As I mentioned in my opening, we’ve got countries at war, spies, revolutionaries, a villain with a very specific and diabolical agenda, and also Princess Giselle Elisabeth Esterhazy von Hohenburg. There are some fantastic action sequences, and plenty of opportunities for everyone to shine and play the hero. Speaking of the princess…
6. The Princess – Two words: Hell. Yes.
7. The Brass Farthing – The pirate airship on which Conny, Johann, and Val find safe passage out of Calais. I enjoyed so much about this. Imagining the ship was tons of fun. I loved picturing all the little steampunk-y ways the captain wanted to deck it out. The crew is amazing. Crawley, Heng, Olivia and Molly played a very large role in the final sections of this book, and I hope will continue to do so in future stories.
8. Anticipation for the Next Book – Clearly anticipation is high right now, just having finished the first one. But this quote from Master Felix – Conny’s teacher and mentor – gave me all sorts of feels and ideas for future adventures: “Don’t hide, Conny. Fly. Outfit that ship with an engine to beat the Lisbon Flyer. Work for Rodrigo long enough to build your vessel the best aether cannons there are to be had, then make the weapons even better.” He smiled, settling into his chair, still watching the ship. “Treasure that crew. They’re a motley mix, but they’re loyal and strong. You will find, when the chips are down, their fellowship will be more valuable than all the aether in the Alps.” Bring on Clockwork Love #2!
9. The Romance – While a bit unconventional in a few ways, it totally worked for me. Conny and Johann were sweet, hot, sexy fun. They just fit together. At first it was simply attraction, but their bond got stronger and stronger as the story moved along. They wanted to protect and take care of each other, and I ate the whole thing up.
10. The Idea of the Heart Itself – During a discussion of Johann’s worry over what having the heart meant, Cornelius says this to him, “…I know everyone fancies the heart as the seat of the soul, but it truly isn’t. It’s nothing more than an organ, frail and mortal. I can’t control you with it. No one can.” I love the whole philosophy behind it. We talk of “heartache” and “broken hearts,” but does it really mean anything? Is our heart simply a vessel for pumping blood? Things that make you go ‘Hmmmm.’
I’m a massive fan of Heidi Cullinan’s books, so picking this one up was a no-brainer. I think she has just scratched the surface of this world, and I truly can’t wait to see more!
You can buy Clockwork Heart here: