From the description on the back, this book has everything I want: plucky heroine trying to make it in Victorian London, mysterious magical artifacts, danger lurking on every corner. In short, the kind of book that I gobble up on a plane. And yet I had to force myself to continue to the end.
You guys, this book is soooooo boring. I just wanted something light and fun to read on a plane, and this book couldn’t even meet that standard.
The book begins with India returning to her father’s watch shop to publicly confront her gold-digging ex-finacé Eddie. Eddie-baby dumped her as soon as he found out her father had left his shop to him, leaving her penniless and homeless. And despite her excellent mechanical skills, no one is willing to hire her. He really deserves all India can dish out. And while she does get a few choice words in, she is stopped mid-fight by a Handsome & Mysterious Stranger whose business with Eddie is so pressing that he has his servant carry India out of the shop and restrain until they are done. Because that’s a totally reasonable way to deal with strangers fighting
Turns out Handsome & Mysterious Stranger is looking for Chronos (get it?!?!?), a watchmaker who sold him a magical watch that seems to be keeping him alive. India has known the watchmakers of London her whole life, and soon H&MS has hired India to help him find his man. But of course nothing about this search is straightforward. No one seems to know Chronos. The people in the watchmaker’s guild are suddenly hostile to India. And H&MS might be a notorious American outlaw.
What bothers me about this book is that it could have been so much fun if the writing was better. Like, I don’t mind that I guessed 90% of the plot in the first 3 chapters. And I could have overlooked the excruciatingly slow pace and even the sketchy world-building* if the characters were entertaining.
They were not. They were hardly more than caricatures.
India Steele is Not Like Other Girls ™. You know the type. She thinks she’s plain and unlovable, yet multiple characters comment on her beautiful figure and that special something she has. She’s supposed to be smart, yet leaps to some really stupid conclusions. She may or may not have extra special magic talent.
Handsome & Mysterious Stranger** is Handsome and also Mysterious. He is weirdly protective of this woman he just met. And although he admires her intellect, he won’t tell her anything about himself, not even when his friends tell him he’s being too secretive.
The dialogue is so wooden and the relationships between characters are so poorly rendered that I could not bring myself to care about any of them. India keeps mentioning H&MS’s abs or dreamy smile or whatevs, but there is no actual spark between the characters.
Why did this book bother me so much? It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read. I can definitely understand why there are some passionate fans out there (there are eight books in this series and counting!) Lord knows I have raced through any number of half-baked fantasy series in my day. But this book felt like a waste of my time and worse, a waste of a good premise.
*And the lack of magic until the end. And the dangling plot threads which are supposed to keep me reading the next book. And the intensely boring “romance”…
**Ok his name is Matthew Glass, and I had to look up his name, despite finishing the book literally half an hour ago. I cannot stress how boring this book was.