Wings of Sorrow and Bone: A Clockwork Dagger Novella (Clockwork Dagger Novels) - Beth Cato

A steampunk/gaslight fantasy of manners. The setting is a country called Tamarania, where the population is dark-skinned, and its war-torn neighbor Caskentia. It’s too bad that the author chose to populate this potentially original setting with characters bearing English surnames like “Stout” and “Cody” and strictly following English Victorian social rituals down to details like tea. There seems to be no reason for it except that, well, that’s steampunk, right? (Ignoring various authors’ recent attempts to broaden the social world of steampunk.) The most interesting part of the setting is the intersection between tech and magic; there are healers called “medicians” who draw on the aid of a goddess, and they can integrate mechanism and flesh. The main conflict of the story concerns the magi-mechanical creation of intelligent beings called gremlins. A teenage would-be mechanist named Rivka, who is uneasy in Tamaranian social circles because of her harelip and her unrefined upbringing, befriends a much more privileged (and self-centered) girl named Tatiana, and together they go on a crusade to end the mistreatment of gremlins, with the help of Broderick, an apprentice medician who is mistreated by his master. It would hardly be a spoiler to reveal that triumphs are scored, growing up and gaining confidence happens, and everyone except the bad guys gets what they want. One unexpected and welcome deviation from the standard course of such stories is that

although Rivka becomes good friends with Broderick, she does not fall in love with him or anyone.

(show spoiler)

Rating: middling.