The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato (Clockwork Dagger #1)


20359709Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.


While I love urban fantasy I hadn’t taken the plunge into steampunk. When this book popped onto my radar I was intrigued – “strange and mysterious occurrences”! A person of color on the cover! The promise of romance! Don’t mind if I do.

The world is easy to fall into, well-drawn and immersive. Cato doesn’t make the mistake of trying to explain everything at once, instead letting details spool out with each new scene and character. The magic system is based on nature but meshes with the mechanical elements in interesting ways. After a short introduction of sorts the story is off and running but never feels rushed. The characters, and by extension the reader, are given some breathing room to absorb and process the events that are going on around them.

That being said, characterization itself is splotchy at best. Octavia and Alonzo are fully formed and nuanced but secondary characters are flat and stereotyped. The pushy salesman with a thin mustache? Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t trust him. And the captain who seems to know what he’s doing? He does. Go fig.

The book was done a disservice by having the male character on the cover. He’s introduced as someone you may or may not want to be associated with… but he’s on the cover! Of course he’s a good guy! That’s another mystery instantly solved.

While I enjoyed being led through this story nothing is particularly pushing me to read the next installment. It’s not because everything’s tidy, on the contrary there are a bunch of loose ends to be followed up. Cato could bring another amazing plot, I’m sure, but the characters feel like they’ve been wrung dry. So for now I’ll pass.