Ah, young love, it rarely fails to amuse. Legacy of the Clockwork Key begins with the heroine, now an orphan, who finds herself lowered to household service. Her parents were killed in a fire. Her prized and only possession is a legacy from her grandfather and is – what she and Will eventually discover—a key. Not just any old key, but the key to all the mechanical creations of a secret society.
Going about her duties in the household of the Baron who “rescued” her, Meg feels watched. The bronze lions perched on pedestals hint of ominous possibilities. Nothing in the house is allowed to change since the trauma of the death of the Baron’s wife. There is a hint buried in that obsession regarding time.
Meg feels trapped, but is driven to pursue the mystery of the key. She enlists the help of Will, the young Scottish tinkerer who now works in the stable. The Baron also rescued Will from the streets of London. Will vacillates from anger to annoyance toward Meg, whose impulses charm him with their hint of danger and discovery. What purpose did the Baron have in rescuing two helpless “children”, then putting them to work and avoiding contact thereafter?
The plot moves slowly at first, but Meg and Will soon embark on the journey to discover the use and meaning of Meg’s key. This book would have been well-served with extensive illustrations of each of the discoveries—machines that echo the automatons that were popular during the Victorian era in England. The “machines” in this story are almost more interesting and have more depth than the characters. Meg’s key is the ignition, so to speak, for each of the devices which have been hidden. Members of the society had their reasons for hiding these dangerous devices, and one by one lead to the final dangerous weapon of, perhaps, mass destructive capability. Meg herself is the key to finding each machine and figuring out how they work.
Meg and Will are helped in their adventure by Lucinda, a widow whose husband has been murdered, and Oliver, a man who loves her. Theirs is a sweet love story of two mature people and it lends a nice contrast to the immature fumbling teen angst of Meg and Will. Meg’s character vacillates from helpless to stupidly courageous; i.e. rubbery legs going down a ladder, yet full of vim and vigor when strapping on a device that will fly her to the next machine. Will finds her selfish, yet manages to be typically Victorian and protective. His disapproval causes Meg some discomfort, but certainly doesn’t stop her from going ahead with whatever impulse pushes her forward.
With each machine that is discovered the tension between Meg and Will grows, and she soon realizes that she loves Will. Torn as he is with his own divided loyalty (you can guess who he would/should be loyal to), he nevertheless follows Meg’s lead from one wild scary event to the next with little physical objection except verbal. Meg whines, cajoles, then leaps to whatever conclusion that will take her wherever the key leads. Will is fascinated with each machine, and he finds them engrossing rather than dangerous.
This first in a planned trilogy was engrossing in its own way. The adventure moves along, the machines are described in detail, and in spite of being buried or hidden for years still work. This novel perhaps was designed to be what’s called steampunk, not a genre particularly familiar to me. My perception of this book was one of a mystery/romance and pretty typical of the way the romance(s) developed between the two couples. It will appeal to young adults looking for a mild romance and a wild adventure. There is nothing objectionable to younger readers since Meg and Will barely have time for more than a kiss or two.
MaryLu McFall is the author of A Little Karmic Murder, an eBook that is available on Kindle, Nook, and all other electronic readers. She lives, works part-time at an independent bookstore, and will soon have her Young Adult novel, The Family Lancaster, published as an eBook as well.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon Pulse. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.