Title: Clockwork Pirate
Author: Lyn Gala
Publisher: Loose Id
Pages/Word Count: 278 Pages
At a Glance: As alt-history steampunk adventures go, I’d say Clockwork Pirate is a fun one. As romances go, though, I’d say this one relied too much on telling rather than showing.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Alex hid his unnatural attraction to men for many years. That changes when the pirate Beche takes Alex after capturing his ship. At first Alex believes his fate is death and the only question a matter of how he might die. However, the longer he is on the ship, the more he realizes that Beche hates the world because it is unfair in ways Alex never understood. As Alex begins to respect this strong, independent man, Alex’s dormant desires begin to reassert themselves.
Beche hates the titled classes and their government enforcers. They might have outlawed slavery on paper, but they never came to the islands to free him or his family. Since his skin is black, society has little respect for him. Beche expects no more of this latest captive, but soon Beche begins to realize that Alex is a naïve and beautiful man who values family and struggles with his own place in society. That poses an even larger problem because Beche does not want to send Alex back to a world that will mistreat him, but he has no place for a lord on a ship full of pirates.
Review: Lyn Gala’s Clockwork Pirate is a difficult novel to pinpoint exactly where my feelings about it landed when all was said and done. On the one hand, it’s a rollicking good, high seas adventure through an alternate history where airships rule the skies and sailing ships still run the seas. The story is not heavy on steampunk details, but offers just enough for readers to understand this is a world of invention and mechanical advancement that didn’t exist in its 1890s setting.
I love a good swashbuckling pirate story, and Beche and his motley crew of seamen give a good show of living up to the reputation of the anarchists of the aristocracy. They are hard men who have been wronged and beaten down by the nobility who once enslaved them. They live by their own set of rules and mete out justice as they see fit—and it usually doesn’t bode well for those they believe are due no mercy. In this, Lyn Gala’s writing was evocative and excelled at bringing to life the harsh climes and sometimes vicious existence these men lived in, and the danger they faced if caught and brought to justice by the society against which they rebelled.
Beche is an interesting character, a former slave who’s become captain of the Yemaja and of his own destiny now he’s freed himself from his owner. As a pirate, Beche is everything you might want—fearsome but also fair, as he proves when he overtakes the ship Meili and captures not only some of its valuables but Alexander, the Margrave of Mergau, as well. His brethren, those who share a history and are closest to him, are even more formidable at times than their captain, as Beche shows mercy to his prisoner on a number of occasions, where others simply want to see Alex die a slow and painful death. What this element served to do, and do well, was contrast these men and the gentle and confused soul that is Alex.
Also serving as a contrast to Alex were his sisters, whom I liked a lot, for as much as we get to know them. Brilliant and independent women stuck in a society that has no use for them, they both served as another reminder that Alex truly was out of his element as the head of his family. One of their purposes, as well, goes hand in hand with Beche’s somewhat interesting ideas of an urning—this novel’s label for gay men—and exactly what the gender roles entail for a man who loves men. Those ideas were…thought provoking, to say the least, and I empathized with Alex’s affront each time Beche reminded him he had a woman’s soul.
Where this novel wasn’t up to snuff, in my opinion, was in the building of the relationship between Beche and Alex. It happens slowly, as it should have, given how deeply Alex had been forced to bury his natural desires and how well he mentally flogged himself for them. He had first to overcome the disgust he felt for himself and the fact he was attracted to Beche; then, once that happened, he was free to tentatively explore those burgeoning feelings. The problem is the connection built between the two men happens somewhere off page. One moment Alex was denying, the next it seemed he was giving in to Beche, and that gap wasn’t spanned by developing the relationship out loud so we readers had the opportunity to become invested in it. In the end, it was a jump that left me feeling only lukewarm feelings toward Alex and Beche as a couple in spite of how well I enjoyed them as individuals.
One of the things you’d expect from a good pirate novel is a grand climax, and Clockwork Pirate delivers in a capture that requires the staging of a well planned and exciting rescue, one that, dare I say, runs like clockwork? I’d have to say this was my favorite part of the book, as it brings together Aster and Philla (Alex’s sisters) and Beche’s brothers-in-arms, working together with Alex to help Beche and his ship’s contriver, Fabrice, escape certain death.
As alt-history steampunk adventures go, I’d say Clockwork Pirate is a fun one. As romances go, though, I’d say this one relied too much on telling rather than showing, and lacked enough exposition to draw the reader in and make us feel invested in Alex and Beche’s happy ending.
You can buy Clockwork Pirate here: