by Lisel Schwarz
Series: Chronicles of Light and Shadow #2
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: August 20, 2013
Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists
FOR BETTER OR CURSE. That might as well have been the wedding vow of Elle Chance and her new husband, the ex-Warlock Hugh Marsh in the second book of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into storytelling magic.As Elle devotes herself to her duties as the Oracle—who alone has the power to keep the dark designs of Shadow at bay—Marsh finds himself missing the excitement of his former life as a Warlock. So when Commissioner Willoughby of the London Metropolitan police seeks his help in solving a magical mystery, Marsh is only too happy to oblige. But in doing so, Marsh loses his heart . . . literally. In place of the flesh-and-blood organ is a clockwork device—a device that makes Marsh a kind of zombie. Nor is he the only one. A plague of clockwork zombies is afflicting London, sowing panic and whispers of revolution. Now Elle must join forces with her husband’s old friend, the Nightwalker Loisa Beladodia, to track down Marsh’s heart and restore it to his chest before time runs out.
In February I read and enjoyed A Conspiracy of Alchemists the first book in the Chronicles of Light by and Shadow by Liesel Schwarz. So, when an ARC became available for Clockwork Heart, book two I immediately dove in. Schwarz took this tale to a darker level, with multiple POVs and left me writhing on the floor. Three word review: action-packed, dark and disappointing.
The tale picks up shortly after A Conspiracy of Alchemists ends. Elle and Hugh are now married, and they are adjusting to life together. Elle is passionate about her flying company and Hugh is concerned about the dangers his wife faces especially since she is the Oracle. Hugh misses his duties as a Warlock and accepts a job from Commissioner Willoughby regarding missing members of the ton. After an argument, Elle takes off on a commissioned flight, but quickly realizes she needs to make things right with Hugh and turns around. When she returns, she finds him missing and the tale that unfolds is froth with danger, and heartbreak as it had me racing to reach the conclusion.
Elle is coming into her abilities as an Oracle and first I was excited by how she was learning and accepting her role but all of that changed. She banishes the prior Oracles from her head, and even when she receives warning to let them back in she doesn’t listen. This frustrated me and made me angry because I cannot help but wonder if some of the horrific things that occur within these pages could have been avoided. She makes decisions that put her danger, and can be so opinionated it clouds her judgment. Hugh promised Elle she could still be herself, but his attitude and actions showed otherwise. It’s apparent they love each other but I wish they communicated better. Their whole dynamic and the reasons I adored them as a couple suffers and it bothers me that the tale moved in this direction. Elle calls in her friend, nightwalker, Loisa Beladodia and others come to her aid. The villain the Lady in White and the clockmaker were dark and fascinating, besides being driven by power we really don’t learn much about them. The absinthe fairy was present and we meet a man in the shadows whose identity had me curious.
The overall tone of a Clockwork Heart is much darker than its predecessor. This felt raw and unfinished to me. There are multiple perspectives, and the details and characters were lacking in development, leaving me disappointed. There are threads that seemed senseless and others that I wanted more details on. The diabolical plan was fascinating, and Schwarz set the stage nicely but the climatic scenes felt rushed and at times awkward. What she did to the main characters left me writhing on the floor. I just about cried as she tapped into my emotions and need for an HEA. The tale ended in despair with a glimmer of hope and despite all of the issues with it, I fully intend to read the next book. I am hoping we see a book with the same caliber of detail we saw in A Conspiracy of Alchemists.
While I was disappointed with parts of Clockwork Heart I did find it engaging and I will continue with the tale. If dismal endings and unanswered questions make you anxious, you may want to read this closer to the release of Sky Pirates due out in June of 2014.
Two and half cups of coffee out of five
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