Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Empty Hourglass by Cornelia Grey

Title: The Empty Hourglass
Author: Cornelia Grey
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Genre: steampunk
Length: 69K, 201 pages
Formats: Mobi, epub, pdf, print

Thomas Escott has always wanted to be a toymaker, yet just as he achieves his dream, an accident claims his right hand. He’s certain his life is over—until he hears about groundbreaking prosthetics being made by a reclusive inventor.

Jethro Hastings is perfectly content to live alone up in the mountains working on a secret masterpiece: a humanoid automaton that will change the scientific community forever. He’s behind schedule, and the date of the unveiling is fast approaching, so when Thomas shows up on his doorstep offering help in exchange for a mechanical hand, Jethro agrees. Time, after all, is running out on another deal he’s made: one with the devil.

The devil gives Jethro’s inventions life, but he can just as quickly take life away—Jethro’s, to be exact. As the sand in the devil’s hourglass falls, marking the time until the end of the deal, inventions go haywire, people get hurt, and Thomas realizes he needs Jethro just as much as his prosthetic. Now he must find a way to save Jethro’s soul, but negotiating with a devil is just as difficult as it sounds.

Farfarello’s back, that sly devil. It’s nearly time for him to collect on Jethro’s Faustian bargain. Jethro’s got one eye on the hourglass ticking down the moments, and Thomas is gradually figuring out what's going on. Farfarello’s got a little more sympathy for the humans he deals with than his boss might approve of.

We’re in Thomas’s head, and of course, he doesn’t have a clue about all the background. He’s come to Jethro’s workshop to beg for a prosthetic hand to replace the one he lost in a workshop accident. Even with time ticking away, Jethro manages to outfit one last person in need, and now Thomas can help him with his exacting engineering. Theirs could be a real partnership on all levels, if Farfarello wasn’t hanging about in the background.

The story is pretty straightforward, without all the side plots built into Circus of the Damned, also in this series, but that’s okay, we get a sense of desperation and confusion here. The setting is steampunky in that it’s a low tech society in the main, with the spectacular gears and whistles getting brought out, but where I ran into issues is with the style.

I open Cornelia Grey’s books expecting to be drenched in her atmospheric prose, the word equivalent of chocolate. And here, while the style is readable, it doesn’t seem to be Cornelia Grey. Plus lots of anachronisms like “okay”, “the guy”, “warm and fuzzy”, and an unusual amount of swearing for genteel people, which sit strangely next to hansom cabs and automatons. It’s a mishmash I’d expect from someone who handles language much less skillfully that she does.

While I’m glad I read this book, it isn’t on the level I've come to expect from this author. 3.5 marbles

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