It is 1852, a year after the events in Gunpowder Alchemy, the first novel in the Gunpowder Chronicles series set during China’s Qing Dynasty. Jin Soling is now a physician to the Emperor’s concubines and her former intended, Chen Chang-wei, is once again among the Engineers in the Ministry of Science. The threat of the Yangguizi, regardless of a treaty, and strengthening defenses against the foreigners as well as the rebel army are of great concern in the Imperial Court. Soling and Chang-wei are on a secret mission to secure an alliance with Japan, despite the Shogunate’s edicts against it. So they are off again on an adventure, rife with danger and intrigue, but this time out they encounter wondrous karakuri automatons, smugglers, Samurai, Ronin, deadly assassins, new allies and old friends.
So much for my attempt at a slightly cryptic, spoiler free summary. Now lets get this one thing out of the way first – I loved the ending! It was satisfying, left me actually smiling, and I’m now looking forward to the next novel in the series. If you read my review of the first book, this might be a bit of a surprise, as I enjoyed it but was left feeling rather ambivalent towards reading more. It turns out that it was one of those books whose story grows on you with time and when I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of the second book, I jumped on it.
The characters have matured in the intervening year and Soling, at the ripe old age of nineteen, was a bit more engaging as the narrator.
…I was learning that nothing was black-and-white. Not a subject’s loyalty to his country – not even a daughter’s memory of her father.
At the start of the book I was concerned that she was going to be pulled into palace and harem intrigues, but found that this was not the case. Instead these elements act as an impetus for Soling, who really just wants to fade into the background and live quietly, to act and that action is part of what leads to her being on the airship that leaves for Japan.
Just before beginning to read, I was hoping that the karakuri from the fairytale retelling novella The Warlord and the Nightingale would be incorporated into this new book somehow. I’m happy to report that they are as well as, even more happily, a certain scientist turned pirate (who needs to be a leading man, possibly paired with a certain Japanese character).
4/5 stars. Adventure, sweet romance, interesting new characters, positive development of existing characters, and an ending that left me satisfied but wanting more. I am greatly enjoying Jeannie Lin’s take on Asian Steampunk. Definitely read the series in order, as this is not a stand alone novel.
This review refers to an ebook copy that I read, at no charge, courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. On the release date I purchased my own ebook copy, and an ebook copy of the first book as well. I just wish I could have purchased nice printed editions.
Clockwork Samurai (Gunpowder Chronicles #2) by Jeannie Lin | Intermix, a division of Penguin Group (USA), LLC, Dec. 1, 2015 | review ebook, 211 pgs