The Clockwork Detective

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

The last couple of years have brought a slew of wonderful steampunk adventures with resourceful, kick-ass heroines, and this one by McCandless is a worthy addition. Aubrey Hartmann is a veteran of recent war, having lost the lower part of one leg, and now works as a constable. Her prosthetic is a clockwork device that needs to be rewound regularly and isn’t a perfect fit but does keep her mobile, if in pain. As a result, she’s become addicted to laudanum (opium). Her current assignment involves investigating the murder of a druwyd (druid, local witch-doctor holy man) in a little town near the Fae-ruled Dark Wood. Here is where the world-building of The Clockwork Detective sharply deviates from the usual Victorian gears-and-whistles steampunk. Magic is not only real, it’s part of everyday life, and the human wars are overshadowed by the possibility of a terrible conflict with the Fae.

Aubrey’s research leads her into the Dark Wood to question the denizens there, those being centaurs, who are not only fierce fighters but wonderfully oblique and weird. The blending of Victorian mechanistic steampunk, mythology, and magic is seamless and believable. The story moves from murder mystery to international thriller to magical encounters of the terrifying kind. Aubrey herself is a wonderful combination of vulnerable addiction, resourcefulness, keen intelligence, and general all-around bloody-mindedness. I look forward to reading her further adventures!

The usual disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book, but no one bribed me to praise it. Although chocolates and fine imported tea are always welcome.
Was this review helpful?
This was something I was absolutely sure I was going to love. It has all the pieces that sounded great. While I really enjoyed parts of this story I had a much harder time with this one than I was anticipating. 

The first half of the book was slow with a lot of information about the world and the situation Constable Aubrey finds herself in. I especially enjoyed Aubrey as a character. She was intelligent and interesting. The city she finds herself in is also in an interesting position as it is growing very quickly and encountering new challenges every day. The second half of the book really picked up the pace and I was more interested in picking it up after the half way point. 

The writing itself was confusing. There is a lot going on in this world and I had  the sense we will see more in future books. However, the surface level introduction in this book was just confusing and limited. I liked this book enough that I would read more so I hope there is more explanation in the future. 

Personally I love when books blend fantasy and science fiction so I did really enjoy the steampunk elements. I enjoyed the character interactions as well. Overall I wanted even more steampunk and fantasy elements incorporated into this story. I enjoyed the fae and other elements that were included, but I craved more. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
The first book in a new  steampunk fantasy mystery series, though not one of my favorite titles of the year I enjoyed it as a story, and would consider reading another in the series
Was this review helpful?
The Clockwork Detective is the first book in a new steampunk mystery series by R. A. McCandless. Released 7th May 2019 from Ellysian, it's 317 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a competently written mystery with good characters, rendered well. The main protagonist is a flawed war hero who is a pragmatist on her way to an assignment in another city when she receives orders to make a detour to investigate a suspicious death in the provinces.

Apart from the tendency on the part of the author to go for the easy option with word choices in setting and environment (druwyd, Haenlein, two different secondary characters named Alina, Bergen/krona), the characterizations and world building are quite well done. The narrative is technically very good with a well defined, smooth tension arc and a satisfying denouement. There aren't a lot of surprises, but the book is mostly character driven, so seeing their development made it an enjoyable read. I was sometimes confused by the abrupt appearance and rapid disappearance of a number of secondary characters (Maritta) and plot threads, but I am willing to see if the disparate threads are picked up later. I appreciated the positive (not overemphasized) depiction of LGBTQIA+ characters. That being said, this volume is refreshingly free of overt romance and there's no graphic sexual content. There's one threatened sexual assault against the MC, but she dispatches the mob with aplomb. The language is quite clean and there's nothing scandalous. I loved the airships. Everyone loves airships.

I enjoyed reading the book very much and look forward to seeing more in the series. There's apparently an anthology of short fiction at least one of which is set in the same world as this one.

Four stars. Well written steampunk murder mystery. (Airships!)
Was this review helpful?
This is a techno- Sci-fi mystery  new series with colorful characters, old England setting but ultimately not my genre.. 
The cover makes you think historical fiction that's what I thought..
Was this review helpful?
I like steampunk; I like fantasy; but I did not like this book. It felt disjointed and jumbled, and I didn't ever get drawn into the plot or invested in the characters - many of which disappeared abruptly from the narrative. I was left scratching my head, for instance, about the newspaper editor. Aubrey seeks her out specifically to get information, understandably thinking she would have connections to the local area and sources others may not, but everything she told Aubrey seemed like the kind of thing anyone would know. But the two of them flirt, so OK, maybe the information-seeking was an excuse to get those two characters to meet and either a romance subplot would develop or the editor would become a bigger help to the investigation... but no, that one interaction is it. That kind of thing was epidemic throughout, with characters and plot threads appearing and disappearing at random. The world-building had interesting flashes, but not much was fleshed out. It was a lot of hinting around the edges. I thought the mysterious events in the village lacked some impact because it wasn't clear to the reader how much was really unusual for the setting, especially given all the dire hints about the fae sprinkled throughout. An interesting premise but poor execution.
Was this review helpful?
Can I say first, what a gorgeous cover this is? It's what first attracted me to this novel. And then the title and blurb were very intriguing, too:
Aubrey Hartman left the Imperial battlefields with a pocketful of medals, a fearsome reputation, and a clockwork leg. The Imperium diverts her trip home to investigate the murder of a young druid in a strange town. She is ordered to not only find the killer but prevent a full-scale war with the dreaded Fae. Meanwhile, the arrival of a sinister secret policeman threatens to dig up Aubrey’s own secrets – ones that could ruin her career. It soon becomes clear that Aubrey has powerful enemies with plans to stop her before she gets started. Determined to solve the mystery, Aubrey must survive centaurs, thugs, and a monster of pure destruction. 
Sounds good, right? Fae in a steampunk world and a murder mystery. I haven't read anything from R. A. McCandless before, so I don't know how this compares to his other two novels, which are urban fantasy. All the ingredients are here, but they just didn't add up to a tasty enough dish for me.
Aubrey is an engaging protagonist with an interesting backstory and solid detective skills. The clockwork leg is a stroke of genius. I think one of the problems is that I wanted more fantasy and science fiction wonder here. What I got felt more of a police procedural than anything else, despite the speculative elements. You could drop Aubrey into real world Victorian London, replace the druids with priests and the Centaurs with East End thugs and the first two thirds of the story would unfold in much the same way. 
The final third begins with more supernatural happenings, but then devolves into so many pages of thinking and dialogue that it loses most of its momentum and tension. The ending wraps things up nicely, but again is too slow and extended.
I still think there are things here to enjoy, and I know that some readers have loved this novel, but it just scrapes in at three stars for me.
I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from #Netgalley, courtesy of Ellysian Press.
Was this review helpful?
My Kobo has been acting up as of late so I was unable to finish this book in it's entirety, but I really loved the adventure! Steampunk is such an underrated genre and McCandless did an amazing job.
Was this review helpful?
Wasn't sure what to think as I started reading, clockwork leg, air ships all very steampunk, then a murder that keeps the Constable in port until the murder is solved. Good secondary characters, and the murder solving gets started which is not clear cut as to who or what caused it. We get mythology and Fae into the mix along with a distant fairly isolated town where the death occurred, an old growth ancient forest that remains to be seen if someone from there is the culprit. It sounds like it would be a mishmash, but it actually was very entertaining. The Constable is a strong woman who lead her command in the war, and uses her memory and logic to think before acting rashly to save herself and others and solve the murder as well as from other worldly enemies. Kept me turning the pages.
Was this review helpful?
The usual caveat applies - Netgalley, free copy, blah blah. 
I must admit I was a little surprised by this book. It really sounds like the author has chucked everything but the kitchen sink in, given it a stir, and hoped for the best. There's obvious steampunk (clockwork leg, airships, all the usual suspects), mythical beings in the form of centaurs of the Fae, druids, and a whodunnit!

It really should be a hot mess.

But, somehow, against all odds, it's really quite engaging. It clips along at a good pace, the secondary characters are as well-drawn as the main ones, and it was altogether an enjoyable read.

It's unashamedly 'first in a series', but still holds up well. I look forward to reading the next one.
Was this review helpful?
Weirdly enough, I love the world of Steampunk, but cannot read it that well.

Having said that, I did enjoy this book, took me a while to read it, but read it i did :) 

I enjoyed the story, the charecters, especially the MC and her clockwork leg!

I love my kindle ofr instances such as this book, but find I cannot read from it continually, so thought I would purcahse the paperbak for my collection and possible re read in the future, but at £15.00 for a paperback, I do not think so.

I recommend this to steampunk fans and non fans alike.
Was this review helpful?
A complex but interesting read, steampunk with LGBT isn’t much on my menu, just not my cuppa tea. That doesn’t mean it’s not interesting, I know there are others who love this sort of tale out there and would enjoy it.
Was this review helpful?
I don't know what I expected from this book,  but a mixture of the Wild West and Celtic Myths wasn't it. It has both futuristic and past features.  The Clockwork Detective is a police woman with an uncomfortable false leg due to losing her real one to a cannonball.  She has to solve a murder which may be at the hands of the Fae, and which could cause a war.

I hope there will be more books in the series.
Was this review helpful?
This is a new series about Aubrey Hartman, female war hero, turned Constable, who is traveling home by air ship when she is stopped by the Imperium (the government) and tasked to solve the possible murder of a young druid and prevent an all-out war with the Fae if their involvement is suspected.

Reading this book made me realize I need to read Steampunk more often. I always enjoy the genre when I do. This series actually combines the fantasy, steampunk and mystery genres all together which was a lot of fun.

I do wish the author would have touched more on the history of the town the Druid was from, Sankt Andra and their spirit Malusilva a little earlier on then at the end, in the middle of the banishment ceremony. It felt a little late in coming. Other then that though, I thought the story was well written and I'm definitely looking forward to continuing the series.
Was this review helpful?
Audrey Hartman has left the battlefield and is returning home. However, on the way home, she encounters the murder of a young druwyd in a small town. Audrey Hartman decides to investigate these murders before going home. This novel had potential but it was not fully executed. The writing is choppy. The steampunk world-building is confusing with no explanation. I did like the heroine for she was very strong. However, the other supporting characters fell flat. I did think the mystery was interesting. Still, I recommend this for steampunk and mystery fans.
Was this review helpful?
The first book in R.A. McCandless' series is a nice mix of steampunk and mystery. You can't go wrong with a clockwork leg.
Was this review helpful?
I jumped at the chance to preview a steampunk mystery and R.A. McCandless did not disappoint!  McCandless writes an engaging, strong, LGBTQ+ heroine who is fearless, intelligent, and sassy.  I look forward to reading more of Aubrey's adventures.
Equal parts mystery and steampunk, this book will satisfy a wide audience of readers.  The cast was interesting and well-developed, and the well-paced action made this one difficult to put down.
Thank you to NetGalley and Ellysian Press for providing me with an ARC of this book.
Was this review helpful?
The Clockwork Detective by R. A. McCandless, a great beginning to a new series. Aubrey is an inspector in the Imperium and is on her way home when she gets diverted by her superiors to help solve a murder. Full of intrigue, suspicion and fey, I can't wait to read the next one when it comes out.
Was this review helpful?
In the Clockwork Detective, we see Constable Aubrey temporarily assigned to the town of Aqualinne to help investigate the murder of a young druid that has recently occurred.  While there she meets Constable Sterben and the two work together to help solve the case, which takes them into the nearby village of Sankt Andra and later into Fae territory.  

Of this novel, I have two minds.  During the first 45%, I didn't feel any connection to the story or to the characters.  With each new character I held out hope for turning the book around for me.  However, it wasn't just the story or the characters that was bothering me.  There were specific parts of the story that were incongruous to other parts and felt so out of place that I had no idea where the emotions the characters held were coming from.  In one specific example, Constable Aubrey is invited to have dinner with Constable Sterber and his wife.  The dinner is going well until a visitor arrives, which Constable Sterber clearly is unhappy about.  After dinner, Constable Aubrey thanks her hosts and leaves for her boarding house.  However, the next day while riding together she contemplates reaching for her weapon on Sterber.  Say what?  Where did these emotions come from?   I spent a good deal of time reading and re-reading the part to see where my understanding went wrong.  Did I skip a sentence?  Or paragraph? They had dinner and the next day one small comment about the previous nights visitor and weapons are thought of?  Perhaps in some way it makes sense, but there was nothing to indicate within the story that this was even coming.  After finishing the book and before writing this review I went again to the sections where the emotions in play didn't match up to the previous section to see if my thoughts had changed, but they had not.  

About 45% through I knew I needed a break. So I intentionally took several days off from reading the book so that when I came back to it I wasn't so frustrated.  And it helped.  Once I picked the book up again I found the remaining portion of the story very nice and easy to read.  Starting from when Constables Aubrey and Sterber begin looking for the fae the pace of the story really picks up and became difficult for me to put down.  During portions of the latter half of the book there were parts I truly did not see coming.  

Throughout the story you also get a sense that there is a bigger world that it is fleshed out, but just not told or explored yet in this particular book, which is a good thing.  With each new book in the series, I can see the world expanding more and more - for there are a lot of good things that the author can draw upon.

All in all, I found this book to be a mixed bag for review purposes.  The first 45% I would give 2 stars, but the latter half I would give 4.  If some of the first portion of the book could be redone a little, I think it would be a solid 4 stars from me.  

My recommendation is that if you are interested in steampunk, with a little fantasy mixed in then you may want to consider picking up this novel, but just realize that it may need fleshing out in some sections.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I'm a fan of steampunk and I like mystery. This book was perfect as it mixes elements of both genre in a very good way.
The writer was able to write an engaging and entertaining book and to master the best way to mix the different elements.
As this is the first book in a series I look forward to read the next installments.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Was this review helpful?