I found this one just looking through for advance materials to put on my ereader. Hooray for steampunk and thanks to Harper Voyager for the copy!
The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato. Harper Voyager, 2015.
This is the sequel to The Clockwork Dagger, which I’d heard good things about but not yet gotten around to. I was able to enjoy the story without having read the first book, but there was enough puzzling that I’d recommend starting at the beginning if this sounds interesting.
Octavia, a Medician, and Alonzo, formerly a Clockwork Dagger and her enemy, are now travelling together hunted by people from all sides. Octavia has healing powers that are supposed to come from the Lady and her tree. That tree is supposed to be magically hidden in a wasteland that’s claimed by countries on both sides and inhabited by rebels working for control of their own country. Naturally, getting to a tree hidden in such a zone will be neither easy nor direct. It involves traveling to lots of other places, including those where Octavia’s powers are dangerously suspect. There are unfriendly relatives, animal-machine hybrids (Alonzo is forced to do battle in the arena with one such creature, especially created for combat), and cursed kingdoms. There’s also a nice partnership between Octavia and Alonzo, some serious soul-searching on Octavia’s part as she questions the divinity of the Lady from whom her power comes, and danger on scales both large and small.
This is a nicely realized and diverse steampunk-fantasy world – not the more traditional alternate Earth history, but its own fully created world. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness of the world-building, including social customs that felt right for a quasi-19th-century world. The romance between Octavia and Alonzo thus progresses with the reserve that one would expect of that era, despite their obvious mutual attraction, thus making the relationship feel that much more genuine. And while it seemed for much of the book that Octavia was just going to have to make peace with a very unpleasant personal fate, I was both pleased and surprised with the eventual ending. It did take me a while to figure the world out, so that I really want to go back and read the first one, but I’d recommend this to adult steampunk fans, as well as older teens.