Bottom line: Even though Timepiece took me a while to get into, once I got into it I was hooked. When I read it for the second time, I enjoyed it right from the beginning.
A novel-length steampunk time travel adventure about a girl, a pocket watch, Frankenstein’s monster, the Battle of Waterloo, and giant clockwork robots taking over London.
Elizabeth Barton longs to escape the endless round of social ritual that defines life in the village of Hartwich during the Regency of Prince George. Her neighbor William Carrington has lost the use of his arm in the Napoleonic Wars, and now must watch from the sidelines as the final act of that conflict unfolds without him. Both go through the motions of their lives, dutiful but dissatisfied, as the Battle of Waterloo looms on the horizon. When an anonymous benefactor sends Elizabeth a pocket watch that is more than what it seems, they are swept seventy years into the future.
The London of 1885 is a steampunk dystopia where the streets are patrolled by Gatling-gun-wielding robots and the clockwork of the British Empire is slick with its subjects’ blood. This future has its roots on the field of Waterloo–in the secret weapon Wellington employed there–and it will come true in seventy years’ time unless Elizabeth and William find a way to stop it.
It took me a while to get into this book. It jumps around between time periods, and I know that it is a time traveling book, after all, but it felt a bit like watching tv while someone is randomly flicking channels. Later on, you start to see how those pieces fit together, giving you background on characters or showing what happened at a particular juncture in the back story. If you’re the kind of person who typically skips over chapter headings (like me), DON’T! Keeping track of the dates will really help orient you – even if you just remember that 1815 is Elizabeth and William’s “present”, 1885 is the “future”, and the 1870s are giving you background on the “future” (1885) characters. This might sound more complicated than it actually is – you can also just ignore all this and enjoy the story.
The writing is well done, and the characters and plot are intriguing. The further in I got, the more sucked in I found myself. I would have liked to see more interaction between the three time traveler characters, and less time spent on various battlefields, but other than that and the difficulty I had remembering all of the names, I don’t have any complaints about the book. I can’t wait for the second book in the series, Timekeeper, to come out (set for summer 2012). I’m hoping that we get to see more of the other time traveler, Maxwell’s past, and follow up on some interesting hints about Elizabeth’s family that were dropped in Timepiece.
Side note: It’s classified as “steampunk” but the steampunk elements aren’t overwhelming. I’m fairly new to the steampunk genre, but I was surprised after I read it that the author had put it in this category. I’m not sure how I would classify it – maybe Jane Austen meets H.G. Wells?
More Info: Check out the author’s website here.
What did you think? Did you like the book?