by Jeannie Lin
Series: Gunpowder Chronicles #2
Published by: Penguin
Genres: Historical Fiction, Steampunk
National bestselling author Jeannie Lin’s Gunpowder Chronicles continue as a woman left adrift by the fall of a Dynasty attempts to reclaim her family’s honor... As a physician, Jin Soling can see that the Emperor is cracking, relying on Opium to drown his troubles. The Ch’ing Empire is failing, and war with the British is imminent, but the man to whom Soling was once engaged has a bold idea to save it. A leader within the Ministry of Engineering, Chang-wei suggests an alliance with Japan, whose scientists claim to have technical advancements that could turn the tide of the war. But Japan has kept itself in isolation for the last two hundred years, cutting all diplomatic ties with the Ch'ing Empire. Chang-wei must enter the island nation in disguise to seek an alliance—an alliance forbidden by the Japanese shogunate. Seeking to escape the politics of the imperial court, Soling arranges her own passage on the airship to Japan. But once they land, Chang-wei and Soling become targets of the shogunate's armored assassins. Caught between two empires, in a land distrustful of foreigners, the deadly war machines are the least of their worries...
The Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin is the second book in the Gunpowder Chronicles set against the backdrop of China’s Qing Dynasty. This alternate steampunk historical is a delightful read, with fleshed out characters and incredible world-building.
Clockwork Samurai is such a wonderful tale. While not quite as strong as its predecessor I could not help but get lost in the vivid world Lin creates. I absolutely love the setting and the descriptive and authentic feel Lin brings to the story and characters. Jeannie Lin weaves in steampunk elements and danger as our heroine Jin Soling and her former intended Chen Chang-Wei embark on a mission to Japan.
When the story begins, Jin Soling is a physician for the Emperor’s concubines. Events force her to seek another position and she is astonished when she finds herself on board a ship accompanying Chen to Japan.
The characters have depth, and Lin pays particular attention to their behavior providing an authentic portrayal of characters from 1852 right down to mannerisms. I love getting inside Jin’s head. I have come to respect her wit, loyalty and quest for knowledge.
The plot unfolds slowly but I was so busy absorbing the world and catching up with Jin Soling that I did not mind the slower pace. As we enter, Japan things get interesting as the suspense and danger increase the further we travel into forbidden areas. I loved the karakuri automatons and the detail will delight fans of steampunk. Danger, new friendships and a wonderful look at Japan made this tale a worthy read.
There is a subtle romance and despite the lack of page time, I found it to be a powerful one. Lin has a wonderful “show not tell” approach giving scenes weight. It delivered all the feels despite the low-heat level. I am eager to see how the romance will progress.
Opium issues, and concerns for Western evasion along with the Emperor’s refusal to accept there is actually a threat are mentioned throughout. The ending completed the journey to Japan, strengthened our characters relationship and set us up for the next novel.
Clockwork Samurai offers a light, enchanting tale set against a time-period I found riveting. I highly recommend this series to fans of steampunk, historical fiction and alternate historical fantasy.
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