Clockwork Boys: Clocktaur War, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
A paladin, an assassin, a forger, and a scholar ride out of town. It's not the start of a joke, but rather an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. T. Kingfisher's new novel begins the tale of a murderous band of criminals (and a scholar), thrown together in an attempt to unravel the secret of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom that promise ruin to the Dowager's city.
If they succeed, rewards and pardons await, but that requires a long journey through enemy territory, directly into the capital. It also requires them to refrain from killing each other along the way! At turns darkly comic and touching, Clockwork Boys puts together a broken group of people trying to make the most of the rest of their lives as they drive forward on their suicide mission.
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|Listening Length||7 hours and 40 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 23, 2019|
|Best Sellers Rank||
#17,150 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals)
#946 in Epic Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#3,319 in Epic Fantasy (Books)
Top reviews from the United States
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Turns out, Clockwork Boys follows a group of criminals (and one teenage scholar/monk) who were selected by the Duchess of their country to sneak into a neighboring city-state and discover the origins and means to destroy their army of clockwork soldiers. Said neighbor is currently at war with pretty much everyone around them and winning, as the clockwork soldiers are as large as a house and almost indestructible. No one expects our heroes to succeed, themselves least of all, but if they do and somehow survive they will get full pardons.
Said heroes consist of Slate, a woman skilled at document forgery and creative accounting; Caliban, a paladin who was possessed by a demon and slaughtered a bunch of nuns before he could be exorcised; Brenner, an assassin and Slate’s ex-lover; and Learned Edmund, a nineteen-year-old scholar who’s practically never left his misogynistic monastery. The POV switches between Slate and Caliban, and they are the central protagonists of the novel.
I liked both Slate and Caliban. Slate’s down-to-earth and no-nonsense, and she’s also got severe allergies which are partly magical in nature. Whenever danger approaches, she gets hit with the smell of rosemary and can’t stop sneezing. Caliban is Vernon’s response to the paladin character type, which she says in the afterword kept annoying her. Caliban’s lost his god, his order, and everything he knew. Now he’s out in the real world and basically stuck working with a bunch of criminals… of which he is one.
The plot structure and world is very Dungeons and Dragons, with a group of mostly strangers thrown together on a traditional quest. That said, there are some interesting twists and turns along the way, and the pacing is fantastic. The story practically zips by, and I had trouble putting the book down. In a large part, this is aided by Vernon’s delightful writing, which is by turns emotionally charged and humorous. Sometimes both at the same time. Seriously, there’s some wonderful banter here.
As an example of the humor, I really loved the realism of two city folk (Slate and Brenner) having to ride horses for essentially the first time, for entire days… and what that feels like afterward. Weirdly, that never seems to come up in fantasy novels.
I have maybe two criticisms of Clockwork Boys. The first is that I wished there were more women. Slate’s great, but she’s the only significant female character and she’s interacting with mostly dudes. I’m pretty tired of science fiction and fantasy stories having only one girl on the team. I was hoping this would improve in the sequel… but it didn’t to any substantial degree.
Secondly, Clockwork Boys isn’t a complete story or even a story with its own arc. It’s literally the first half of a larger book — Vernon was worried that Clockwork Boys + The Wonder Engine would be too long, so she chopped them in half. Honestly, I would have preferred a giant, whomping fantasy novel. I can deal with those. As is, I immediately headed into book two, so I was essentially reading it as one novel.
While I might have had a couple of quibbles, overall Clockwork Boys was utterly delightful and tons of fun. It’s been a while since I enjoyed a book quite this much.
The first half has a lot of cliche interacations, but once they get going it gets a lot better. I like the characters. I doubt I will ever get tired of her sensible, competent, and not particularly beautiful leading ladies, and Slate is another from this mold.
This book isn't exactly a cliffhanger, but it does leave the story very unfinished. If you hate being left hanging, you might want to wait for the next one before you read this one. Buy it now though, so Ursula knows we want to read the next one!
(P.S. Ursula if you read this please come to Seattle again!)
Top reviews from other countries
You'd be wrong.
While the book certainly has its darker moments - and I get the feeling it's only going to get grimmer from here - they're balanced by a wry humour which is Pratchettesque in its puncturing of fantasy tropes and truisms while staying firmly within the world and feel of the narrative. The story grabs you by the shoulders from the start and doesn't let go, but there's enough context given that within the first chapter you're pretty solidly aware of where the characters are, what they're doing, and exactly how likely they reckon it is that they'll survive all of this (answer: not very).
And speaking of the characters: T. Kingfisher has an ear for dialogue that's nothing short of perfect. The characters feel like real people, and, more than that, like people you /want/ to spend the book with. When they argue, it's over things which make sense - when they break and show weakness in front of each other, it's for reasons which /work/. And they've each of them a depth to them which suggests we've not yet scratched the surface of what they can do when they're pushed to it.
My only complaint? That the second book isn't out yet, so I can't find out what happens next.
This is a quest tale. Four disparate individuals forming some kind of team, but what lifts it well above average is the characterisation and dialogue. Bleakly funny and heartbreaking by turns, I raced through this and immediately bought the second book, The Wonder Engine, because this is a story of two halves. This book deals with the journey, and now i need to know what happens when they arrive.