Kingdom of Clockwork is a steampunk novel written by Billy O’Shea. Set in Denmark centuries after fossil fuels have run out and the technology of the “past” has been lost, the landscape seems to have reverted back to pre-industrialised Earth. Priced at £7.51 for Kindle, Amazon Unlimited subscribers can enjoy the book for free. However, why not support an independent author and get a paperback copy direct from the publishers? At €20 (approx £15.49) it also comes in audio book form and is postage free.
The beginning of the book doesn’t give you any indication of where in time you are. It starts on the assumption that you’re fully aware of your surroundings. That’s fine as it tends to get you a bit closer to the action and feeling a bit more for the protagonist. Aside from the back page blurb which begins “In a future Denmark”, you could be forgiven for not realising that the story is indeed set in the far future – centuries from now – where the past is considered a taboo subject and scientists call it the “Irrational Layer” when they dig up fossilised remains of technology. Indeed, the young protagonist gets chastised earlier on for discussing the recent discovery of a railway track.
We skip through his formative years through university and the story really gets moving around chapter 3 when he’s introduced to the new young King. After being betrayed, he sets off on a perilous journey into the Northern parts of the world with his king and several airships.
The start of the story is slowly paced with subtle hints at the fact that a citizen of Kantarborg can get thrown in jail for discussing the past. Intriguingly, nothing is said of the past or how the Earth and Humans managed to get to this point in time which is so far in the future, yet seems to have cycled round to a more primitive past. From chapter 6 the story starts to heat up as the adventure begins which sees the heroic team fighting against their long term foes, meeting tribes folk and even a witch.
Each chapter is very well written with no obvious spelling or grammatical errors. I enjoyed some of the dark, subtle humour and the interesting twist at the end.
What at first comes across as a fantastical adventure in a similar vein to C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader, makes way at the end to being a deeply politically motivated story. The whole adventure has a secret conclusion that I would never guess was coming. The mad King who seeks such an adventure turns out to be wise and extremely cunning and manages to talk all the people he needs into doing his bidding.
For a first novel, Kingdom of Clockwork is very well written. It’s well paced – maybe a little slow at first, but then that never harmed James Herbert – and while the characters are maybe not ones to really get attached to, they’re pleasant enough. My main criticism about the characters would be regarding the main protagonist. He comes across as a somewhat reluctant hero, yet as soon as imminent danger is thrust upon him, he faces it with bravado in the name of his King.
There’s a strong steampunk theme running through the story, but it also seems to capture other genres too, such as fantasy adventure, mystery and even a hint of political thriller, maybe. Despite being set so far in the future, there’s still a monarchy overlooking a sovereign country and just like Britain today; while most people like their monarchy there are mutterings of disloyalty and questioning their need in society.
If you like your books given to you straight with clear explanations of why the world is how it is, etc, then you’ll be out of luck. There’s no clear reason why the future is how it is or why the past is considered heretical to be talked about. However this approach allows for critical thinking as well as the imagination to run wild.
Given that, Kingdom of Clockwork is a pleasurable read and will while away the hours on a holiday, for example. If you like well written adventures with a twist at the end, then you’ll definitely enjoy Kingdom of Clockwork.
You can buy this book on Amazon here: Kingdom of Clockwork on Amazon
Or direct from the publisher here: Kingdom of Clockwork at Black Swan