Sunday, October 23, 2016

Book Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Timekeeper by Tara Sim
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
Genres: YA - Fantasy - Steampunk - LGBTQA+
Find it On: Goodreads / Amazon
My Rating: 


Two o’clock was missing.

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

About the Author:

Tara Sim is a YA author found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she's not writing about magic, clocks, and boys, she drinks tea, wrangles cats, and sings opera.

Tara grew up in California, but braved the elements of Virginia to study English/Creative Writing at Hollins University.

Half-Indian and full geek, she eats too many samosas and awkwardly dances to Bhangra music.

My Review:

This book came out of nowhere and hit me over the head with its awesome!

Danny is the youngest clock mechanic in a alternative-world Victorian England where clock towers like Big Ben literally control time. Each city has its clock tower that safeguards its "time zone." If the clock tower stops working, so does time in the town, and the people in it become frozen and unable to escape - which is exactly what happened to Danny's father three years ago. He has worked so hard to become a good enough mechanic to save the city of Malden. The last thing he ever expected was to meet a spirit that controls time itself - or to fall in love with him.

I'm absolutely loving this new trend in YA fiction to make a world so detailed that the plot doesn't feel recycled. Clock towers that control time, backed by an entire detailed mythos of deities? Count me in! From first picking up this book, I hoped and hoped that such an amazing premise would not disappoint, and trust me, Ms. Sim did not let us down!

The best part of the world building was that the characters themselves didn't know everything about the physics of their world. Danny knows how clocks work, but he only believes the gods and clock spirits to be legends until he meets them. Even the clock spirits themselves don't have all the answers to how they operate or how they came to be. As a reader who was piecing it all together, it was perfectly paced that we were learning the world alongside Danny himself.

Speaking of whom, I loved him as a protagonist! He is just plain grumpy, but given his difficult life, why wouldn't he be? Since losing his father, he has entirely dedicated himself to work, at the cost of most friendships and his relationship with his mother. When he meets a boy who begins to crack his shell of self-loathing, it really means something.

And Colton? P r e c i o u s. He was simultaneously ancient and wise while having a complete naivety about humans and their emotions.

I won't go into too much detail with the rest of the characters, but generally speaking, there was a lot of delicious moral ambiguity that I love. The "good guys" had their own motivations and the "bad guy" had an understandable motivation behind his actions.

In terms of Danny's sexuality: I almost wouldn't count this as a queer book. It's one of those few LGBTQ romances that is not defined by the protagonist's sexuality. There are so many times that characters have conversations with Danny along the lines of, "Do you not want to introduce me to him because he's a guy? Because it's okay," and Danny just simmers and thinks, "I don't care that I'm gay. I care that he's not a human dammit!" So if what you're looking for is a gung-ho queerpositive love story, this may not be entirely it, but if you're looking for an awesome story with a queer character, look no farther!

As I'm sure you guessed from the four-stars, there was one major irk that kept this down a star: the setting. Ms. Sim is insistent that this takes place in 1875, but one that is so technologically progressive (cars, phones, etc.) that society (feminism, gay rights) are also drastically progressive. I know the genre is steampunk, but I think she was too married to the idea that steampunk has to be Victorian. Because so much was different, there was actually nothing left that made it Victorian aside from the constant date references. Since this takes place in an altogether different world, I wish she had made it in its own time without tying it to our history line. As it stands, I was just confused until I read her author's note at the end.

Thank you immensely to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book. It was an unexpected new favorite and one heck of a debut!


"You're...everything. You're...You're chaos and order and everything in between. Like sunshine kept back by the clouds. Like the entire world's imploded inside you, but all I see are the stars are sewn into your skin. You're filled with soft, dark music. [...] I hear it all the time. Your music."

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