Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, September 21, 2012

Week ending September 21, 2012

Anderson, Kevin J. & Neil Peart. Clockwork Angels. ECW, dist. by IPG. Sept. 2012. c.314p. ISBN 9781770411210. $24.95. FANTASY
In the small town of Barrel Arbor in the land of Albion, assistant apple orchard manager Owen Hardy lives according to the dictates of Albion’s beloved, benevolent ruler, the Watchmaker, who governs from Crown City and maintains the Stability created by alchemy from the chaos of before. Albion runs on schedules set by the Watchmaker, and next on Owen’s schedule is to turn 17, propose to his true love, marry, and create the next generation of citizens. But Owen dreams of different places and adventures, and one night, as he watches a steamliner pass by on its way to Crown City, he impulsively stows away with the help of an odd man already on board. Thus begins Owen’s adventure to Crown City, where he sees the workings of the mysterious Clockwork Angels, and soon is forced to think for himself as he discovers the flaws in the Watchmaker’s Stability and the inherent evil in extremism of any kind.
Verdict Owen’s naïveté and the one-dimensionality of many of the characters early on detract from the depth of the plot, which surfaces almost too late. Historical and literary references (i.e., Seven Cities of Gold, Pangloss) add interest to the steampunk flavor of this fantasy, but the major selling point here is the collaboration between the best-selling author Anderson (“Saga of the Seven Sun” series) and Peart, the drummer and lyricist for the Canadian rock band Rush, which draws on the lyrics for Rush’s eponymous album. Recommended only for fans of Anderson and Rush.—Melanie C. Duncan, Shurling Lib., Macon, GA

Linden, Caroline. The Way to a Duke’s Heart. Avon. (Truth About the Duke, Bk. 3). Sept. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780062025340. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Charles de Lacey, Lord Gresham, has been estranged from his father, the Duke of Durham, for 11 years, since the duke denied Charlie the right to marry the woman he loved. Now the duke has died, leaving behind a trail of blackmail and a secret that will cast doubt upon Charlie’s legitimacy and prevent him from ascending to the title. Charlie is off to Bath to follow up on information about the blackmailer, who has been identified as Hiram Scott. Charlie’s appearance at the York Hotel coincides with that of Tessa Neville, in town to investigate a canal venture of possible investment interest to her brother. But the earl is distracting the hotel staff, and Tessa is irritated that her affairs now come second to this indolent aristocrat’s. Unfortunately, Tessa’s sotto voce remark is overheard by Charlie, but rather than being offended, he is intrigued by the brash and exceedingly attractive young woman. When he realizes that Mrs. Neville’s business involves Hiram Scott, Charlie insinuates himself into her plans—and eventually her heart.
Verdict The conclusion to Linden’s trilogy (Blame It on Bath; One Night in London) pairs a charming rogue with a woman smarter than most men who wishes for independence from her loving relatives. Unmasking the blackmailer is more matter of fact than tension-filled, but it doesn’t solve all of Charlie’s troubles. Romance fans will enjoy spending time with these fascinating protagonists.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

starred review starNicholas, Douglas. Something Red. Emily Bestler: Atria. Sept. 2012. c.315p. ISBN 9781451660074. $25. F
As a makeshift family led by an Irish healer in 13th-century England makes their way across a mountainous, frigid terrain, their newest adopted member, Hob, struggles to stay warm and keep his wagon on the path. The nomads become uncomfortably aware that they are being stalked by an unseen, deadly force as they proceed through the woods. As the terror builds, Hob and his new family must decide whether they will fight for the little they hold dear. Nicholas, an award-winning poet, creates a turbulent world of Norman knights, hidden royals, and warrior monks, where no one is whom they appear to be and evil lurks in the wings. The historical detail and gradually building fear is vibrant and palpable as the novel rockets toward its conclusion.
Verdict This darkly atmospheric debut novel is well worth its measured plot-building for its horrific, unexpected ending. Fans of historical fiction with a dark fantasy twist would enjoy this.—Katie Lawrence, Chicago

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"