As the proprietor of Disenchanted & Co. in a steampunk version of America, Charmian “Kit” Kittredge makes her living solving magical crimes. But when a snobbish lady begs for help, saving her reputation might very well cost Kit her life.
Doing a favor for deathmage Lucien Dredmore, Kit agrees to interview a newly widowed lady as a potential client. Upon meeting, however, she learns that the woman in question is none other than Lady Eugenia Bestly, president of the Rumsen Ladies Decency Society—someone who once led a vicious campaign to ruin Kit’s life. Ironically Lady Bestly now lives in fear herself, for the press is about to unmask her husband as the savage “Wolfman” who died while terrorizing the city.
As monstrous rampages continue to occur, Kit soon determines there is more than one Wolfman, and that they may themselves be victims of evil players. While avoiding both mechanized assassins and attempts by Dredmore and Chief Inspector Tom Doyle to take her under their protection, Kit follows a tangled path that leads from a prestigious gentlemen’s club fronting a hellish secret to a vengeful native tribe and dangerous, ancient magics.
*blurb from Goodreads
I’m very happy to say that I enjoyed The Clockwork Wolf more than I did the first book in this series, Disenchanted & Co. (reviewed here). I think that is partially because the world has been established, and we don’t need to go through all the introductory stuff again. But mostly, it feels like it’s because unlike Disenchanted & Co., The Clockwork Wolf reads like it was always intended as a single story. It flows better.
One of the classic steampunk matchups (assuming that steampunk has been around long enough to have anything classic) is the paranormal werewolf vs the scientific engineer. (There’s an excellent (see review at Reading Reality) steampunk romance using this pairing in Moonlight & Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape.)
In The Clockwork Wolf, the titular werewolf (werewolves, actually) is partially created by engineering. So a scientific werewolf. With some Native magic thrown in.
That’s an interesting twist to the story that we haven’t seen yet. Because this is an alternate universe where the Colonies never broke from the Empire, this is the first we’ve heard of the Native Americans. (I suppose they’d be Native Torians in this world).
Unfortunately this is not an alternate universe where relations between the Natives and the incomers worked any better than in our version of history.
(Spoiler alert for the first book in the series) Disenchanted & Co. ends with Kit using her powers as a spirit-born curse breaker along with some interesting gizmos to reverse time back to the beginning of the adventure so that Deathmage Lucien Dredmore survives. Kit is the only person who remembers the original timeline, but Dredmore has dreams about the “might have beens”. Kit shows the strain of knowing what happened before, including truths that change her relationships with both Dredmore (who has been pursuing her relentlessly) and her childhood friend Tommy Doyle who is now a police inspector.
It was very cool to see this time-altering reboot have consequences for Kit. It shouldn’t be easy to live with what she did. (If anyone remembers the TV Series Witchblade, it also had a total reboot sort of like this one).
Revenge by honor is the way this story begins. Kit takes the case of finding out what caused Lord Bestly (name too coincidental for words) to turn into a were-creature and go on a killing rampage the night he died. Kit refers to her actions as “revenge by honor” because she takes the case to save the reputation of Lady Eugenia Bestly, the woman most responsible for Kit’s initial ostracism when she arrived in Rumsen. Lady Bestly treated, and continues to treat, Kit extremely beastly, simply because Kit is an independent working woman and “ladies” are not supposed to work. Or be independent. Or do anything Lady Bestly and her tonnish friends don’t approve of.
That Lady Bestly now requires the kind of help that only Kit can provide is sweet revenge.
The case is not a simple one. The were-beasts are a combination of mech and magic, and Native magic at that. The evil at the heart of the conspiracy believes that Kit’s powers make her the only person who can make his dreams of conquest come true.
The Natives believe that Kit is the only person who can return their sacred artifact to its rightful place.
Kit just wants to thwart the conspiracy, AND bring all of her friends and loved ones out the other side. Without re-writing history–again.
What makes The Clockwork Wolf so much fun to read is Kit, and the more we learn about her backstory, the more fascinating she becomes. She solves the mystery by her wits and her connections, all of whom are interesting characters in their own right (I particularly enjoy Rinna’s perspective).
Kit knows that her acts have consequences, particularly her unwillingness to become a traditional female and marry either of the men who love her. But this isn’t a standard romantic triangle, where Kit can’t make up her mind or goes back and forth. She seriously weighs the consequences of choosing Dredmore, or Doyle, or neither, and keeps coming back to “neither”. Not because she doesn’t love them both, but because she values her independence more.
I give The Clockwork Wolf a B+