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A paladin, an assassin, a forger, and a scholar ride out of town. It’s not the start of a joke, but rather an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. T. Kingfisher’s new novel begins the tale of a murderous band of criminals (and a scholar), thrown together in an attempt to unravel the secret of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom that A paladin, an assassin, a forger, and a scholar ride out of town. It’s not the start of a joke, but rather an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. T. Kingfisher’s new novel begins the tale of a murderous band of criminals (and a scholar), thrown together in an attempt to unravel the secret of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom that promise ruin to the Dowager’s city. If they succeed, rewards and pardons await, but that requires a long journey through enemy territory, directly into the capital. It also requires them to refrain from killing each other along the way! At turns darkly comic and touching, Clockwork Boys puts together a broken group of people trying to make the most of the rest of their lives as they drive forward on their suicide mission.


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A paladin, an assassin, a forger, and a scholar ride out of town. It’s not the start of a joke, but rather an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. T. Kingfisher’s new novel begins the tale of a murderous band of criminals (and a scholar), thrown together in an attempt to unravel the secret of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom that A paladin, an assassin, a forger, and a scholar ride out of town. It’s not the start of a joke, but rather an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. T. Kingfisher’s new novel begins the tale of a murderous band of criminals (and a scholar), thrown together in an attempt to unravel the secret of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom that promise ruin to the Dowager’s city. If they succeed, rewards and pardons await, but that requires a long journey through enemy territory, directly into the capital. It also requires them to refrain from killing each other along the way! At turns darkly comic and touching, Clockwork Boys puts together a broken group of people trying to make the most of the rest of their lives as they drive forward on their suicide mission.

30 review for Clockwork Boys

  1. 4 out of 5

    booksNpenguins

    "Would you like to go on a suicide mission?" she asked. He smiled. It was the first genuine smile she'd seen all day. "I would be honored," he said. So, I don't know if you guys remember but I let my boyfriend pick my next read and he chose this one because -it looks cool. -but have you read the blurb? -no, but I trust the cover. -yeah, wrong move. -you're weird. and I rest my case. And you know what? I should let his instinct pick my books more often. Clockwork Boys really caught me by surpr "Would you like to go on a suicide mission?" she asked. He smiled. It was the first genuine smile she'd seen all day. "I would be honored," he said. So, I don't know if you guys remember but I let my boyfriend pick my next read and he chose this one because -it looks cool. -but have you read the blurb? -no, but I trust the cover. -yeah, wrong move. -you're weird. and I rest my case. And you know what? I should let his instinct pick my books more often. Clockwork Boys really caught me by surprise, and I love it when books do that. It's not only a tale written for those who are tired of stereotyped main characters and repetitive plots, but it's also the funniest book I've ever read so far this year. I went into it with very low, if not zero, expectations, and now I'm almost glad I did. This is the kind of book you'd like to discover by yourself, page after page, like a gift to unwrap. It's also one of those books I can see myself rereading in the future. Slate, Caliban, Brenner and Learned Edmund are non-traditional anti heroes that you can't help but love despite their wits and quirks. They're the real heart and star of this book. The writing is very simple and probably not award-winning, but among the hilarious and entertaining dialogues (the characters banter is a total 10/10), you can find some hidden gems. Especially when horse riding is involved. Lol. The story is interesting, unpretentious and presented to the reader the way it is. Call it a heist story, an adventure novel, but it's much more than that. Sure, you won't find many twists and gory jaw-dropping moments, but it will leave you satisfied enough to want to keep reading and wanting to know what's going to happen next. Unfortunately, the pacing is a little too rushed and it leaves little space to descriptions. It becomes a problem when you'd like to know more about something and the authors tells you about it rather than showing it to you, instead. I guess this is to blame to the fact that this is the first part of a story that's been cut in two halves, or maybe the author simply wanted to focus on the characterization of her amazing protagonists, so I'm really not going to count it as a flaw. I can't wait to read the second part of this story and I couldn't recommend this enough to you guys. If you have the chance, give it a try. Its humor and freshness will put you in a great mood, especially if you're feeling a little blue. T. Kingfisher, Ursula Vernon or whatever name you like to be called I usually don't do this, but I just have to end this review by sharing with you guys some of my favorite dialogue bits and sarcastic lines, because sharing is caring and because I love them so much, in case you haven't noticed. What a pair they'd make -a short little criminal leading a blind, shambling wreck of paladin. The Dreaming God wasn't known for his sense of humor, but sometimes you had to wonder. "You planning on killing our Slate some night on the road, Sir Caliban?" The knight simled sourly. "Not if you're closer." Apparently this was the right response. Brenner slapped him on the back and went back to his chair. "Excellent! At least we'll all go to hell in good company." "My legs will never close again," she muttered. "That would be music to my ears if I wasn't dying," said Brenner, a step below her. "You better not snore," she grumbled into the dark. "I don't snore." "Good." "I gibber in demonic tongues." "I've nver met an assassin before," said Learned Edmund to Brenner, after thay had been several days on the road. "Speaking on behalf of assassins everywhere, we were perfectly happy with that." And these are not even the funniest/coolest ones, because I don't want to spoil all the fun for yooz. But still, as you can see, the cover might not be the most beautiful, the plot might not be the most original, but you know what they say. If a book that makes you laugh out loud, it can't be nothing but The One. ACTUAL RATINGS 4,5/5

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Clockwork Orange boy. Different and yet somehow alike. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature: The plot of T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys is of the “misfit company of strangers on a dangerous mission” type. Their country has been invaded by the so-called Clockwork Boys, nearly unstoppable, 10-foot-tall centaur-like creatures who are laying waste to the countryside. (I like the allusion to the out-of-control gang of boys in A Clockwork Orange.) The Dowager Queen has previously sent soldie Clockwork Orange boy. Different and yet somehow alike. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature: The plot of T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys is of the “misfit company of strangers on a dangerous mission” type. Their country has been invaded by the so-called Clockwork Boys, nearly unstoppable, 10-foot-tall centaur-like creatures who are laying waste to the countryside. (I like the allusion to the out-of-control gang of boys in A Clockwork Orange.) The Dowager Queen has previously sent soldiers and spies to distant Anuket City, from which the Clockwork Boys regularly emerge, to investigate and try to stop these artificially created creatures, but these prior groups have all disappeared without a trace. So the Dowager has now landed on the idea of sending a group of criminals, perhaps with the thought that it’s no great loss if they don’t return. The group is led by Slate, a 30-year-old brown-skinned woman with serious forgery and lock-picking skills and a small amount of magic: the smell of rosemary magically guides or warns her at key moments. The rosemary scent leads Slate to Sir Caliban, a handsome paladin (knight) who specializes in killing demons that have possessed people or animals, but who is in prison after he himself was possessed and committed mass murder. The demon’s spirit is now dead, at least mostly, but is still lurking within Caliban. Slate and Caliban are joined by Brenner, a skilled and rather heartless assassin and Slate’s former lover, and Learned Edmund, a scholar whose religion teaches that women are poisonous to men’s souls. Unfortunately for the group, this is almost certainly a suicide mission. No one ― neither the Dowager who sends them on their mission, the soldiers they meet along the way, or the four team members themselves ― expects them to survive. But if they beat the long odds, full pardons await. So they begin the long, dangerous journey to Anuket City. A group of recently-met companions going on a hazardous mission is a familiar fantasy plot, but Kingfisher excels at drawing flawed but appealing characters. Much of the focus of the story is on their interpersonal relationships, and each member of the group is a unique and memorable character. Kingfisher also fills the pages of this novel with wry humor, witty observations and fascinating details. To prevent the group members from abandoning their assignment, the criminals (Slate, Caliban and Brenner) are given tattoos of a small toothy creature biting into their arms. If they start to go off-mission, the tattoo gives them a painful bite. Fail to return to the mission, and the tattoo will entirely devour you.Slate wondered vaguely where they’d found [the tattoo artist]. Minor wonderworkers were common enough, often possessing very specific talents. Still, what kind of turns did a life have to take before you discovered that your personal gift from the universe was making carnivorous tattoos?Clockwork Boys is a solid, enjoyable fantasy adventure, with a slight whiff of steampunk to it, but it’s only the first half of the overall story. The conclusion of this tale is in The Wonder Engine, published in 2018 and a Locus Award nominee. There are some surprising twists in the second half of this adventure; it’s well worth reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lois Bujold

    Well, that suited my reading mood. Be it noted, this and its second half, The Wonder Engine, is one story, cut in half for length -- well, more like one-third/two-thirds -- not two. I read both together, so this review covers both. Don't think of it as the author charging you twice for one tale, but rather, as giving you a low-cost-low-risk chance to test-drive it before you fully commit. It is very D&D-ish, which are its attested roots -- the writer having it out with an array of genre tropes tha Well, that suited my reading mood. Be it noted, this and its second half, The Wonder Engine, is one story, cut in half for length -- well, more like one-third/two-thirds -- not two. I read both together, so this review covers both. Don't think of it as the author charging you twice for one tale, but rather, as giving you a low-cost-low-risk chance to test-drive it before you fully commit. It is very D&D-ish, which are its attested roots -- the writer having it out with an array of genre tropes that annoyed her. T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) wins the arm-wrestle, here. As she says memorably in her Afterword, "Inspiration knocks now and then, but spite bangs on the door all year long." Briefly, a ragtag bunch of misfits -- a disgraced paladin, a ninja forger, an assassin, and a geeky Temple scholar -- are sent out as spies to penetrate an enemy city-state which has been sending forth squads of magical-mechanical monsters against its neighbors, to try to discover their source and how to stop them. Nothing goes as planned. Something of the same mode of a mix of fantasy tropes, send-ups of same, a serving of horror, cogent human observation, and humor, as in her prior short novel I read, Nine Goblins, but longer this time, and with more romance. (I don't think it's the same fantasy universe, though.) I feel Vernon is sharper-edged at short lengths -- her short story "Toad Words" is unforgettable -- but one can't keep up that sort of thing at long lengths, any more than one could run a whole marathon at sprinter speed. ("Toad Words" may be found, logically enough, in the e-collection Toad Words and Other Stories, under the T. Kingfisher pen name that Vernon uses for her adult-aimed work.) Ta, L.

  4. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    God I love T Kingfisher. I think I've read everything of hers this year. Superb, understated writing, glorious humour, wild imagination, and the kind of deep kindness and humanity that comes with an uncompromising view of right and wrong. One of those writers who just makes the world a better place, if only for the duration of a book, but sometimes that's all we have. This is really the first half of a book, rather than book 1 of 2, so thank goodness the second half will be along soon. It's a cla God I love T Kingfisher. I think I've read everything of hers this year. Superb, understated writing, glorious humour, wild imagination, and the kind of deep kindness and humanity that comes with an uncompromising view of right and wrong. One of those writers who just makes the world a better place, if only for the duration of a book, but sometimes that's all we have. This is really the first half of a book, rather than book 1 of 2, so thank goodness the second half will be along soon. It's a classic fantasy quest: a rogue accountant, a haunted knight, an assassin and a religious fanatic set off on a suicide mission to stop an automaton army. (NB this isn't steampunk, despite the title.) The joy is in the growing friendships that happen despite themselves, and the hugely enjoyable dialogue, as well as the marvellously imaginative world. Great fun.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    4.5 stars. This was very good. There are some very funny scenes in this book, especially when two of the characters are trying to ride horses! A disparate group set out to complete an impossible mission. We meet some strange creatures, gnoles and runes (green deer things), zombie vermin, demons, mandrakes, wonder engines, clocktaurs and a giant stone fish. I’m really looking forward to the second half of this story. Recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Arunimaa

    3.75 stars. Before I begin my review, I'd just like to state a change in my rating system as of 2021. So since we all know, our dear Goodreads does not have an option for "half" stars and if I decide to rate a book, say 3.5 stars, I have to end up rounding off. Now it is either going to be 3 or 4. I usually see which one goes with the book better. If 3 seems too less for the kind of 3.5 I have in mind then I do 4 and vice versa. So I have decided to scrap 3.5 altogether and instead rate books in 3.75 stars. Before I begin my review, I'd just like to state a change in my rating system as of 2021. So since we all know, our dear Goodreads does not have an option for "half" stars and if I decide to rate a book, say 3.5 stars, I have to end up rounding off. Now it is either going to be 3 or 4. I usually see which one goes with the book better. If 3 seems too less for the kind of 3.5 I have in mind then I do 4 and vice versa. So I have decided to scrap 3.5 altogether and instead rate books in terms of .25 or .75 which would help me round them off much more easily. **** Ooh, this book was a lot of fun. I think this was my first time reading anything under "Steampunk genre". This was also my first time reading anything by T. Kingfisher, which is her "Adult" pseudonym for Ursula Vernon, her actual name. I was greatly intrigued by the premise set by the blurb - an unlikely group of criminals - a disgraced ex-demon possessed mass murderer paladin, a hilarious assassin, a ninja accountant with some 10000 allergies, and a misogynistic 19-year-old scholar set on a suicide mission. They all know they are not going to make it back but it is that or being hung by the State for their crimes. Except for our dear scholar, Learned Edmund, who had willingly volunteered to join this espionage (he is the only one who is not a criminal). To be honest, not a whole lot happened In this book. Yes, our friends met with a few unfortunate accidents along their journey but there were no "Oh my god" moments. Except for the funny ones maybe. And I guess, that is what saved and made the book. I love books that make me laugh. And I will hand that to Clockwork Boys. We have a very interesting group of people here, who do anything but mesh well together. So it's all rather funny to see them having to adjust with one another. Especially with Slate and Learned Edmund. I just could not. First of all, all our characters are arrogant jackasses in some way or the other. Caliban is proud and arrogant in his hot, chivalrous knightly way. "Would you like to go on a suicide mission?" she asked instead. He smiled. It was the first genuine smile she had seen all day. "I would be honored," he said. Slate is arrogant in her cool, badass way. She can't stand being in a weak position. Brenner, well, everything about him screams arrogant. And I love it. And as far as Learned Edmund is concerned, well, the fact that he won't sleep in the same room as Slate because he thinks her feminine exhalations will make his genitals wither and turn his bowels into liquid, sort of tells you everything you need to know. There were a few scenes that I enjoyed way too much. Especially the horse riding bit with Slate and Brenner. I almost cried because the entire thing was so hilarious. "Brenner, who had never been on a horse in his life, had taken out his dagger and was showing it meaningfully to his mount. The horse did not look impressed." And then when the two of them were literally dying after the horse riding, I died. "My legs will never close again," she muttered. "That would be music to my ears if I wasn't dying," said Brenned, a step below her, "Do you think we will make it to Anuket City?" "I don't know if I will make it to my room." And of course, I loved all interactions between Slate and Caliban. I sense a romance coming in the next book, maybe. A bit of a love triangle too, I guess. But I do not think it is going to be very heavy, the love triangle, I mean. We do see a bit of character development. Our characters do warm up a little to another. They might even call each other friends. Even Slate and Edmund (miracles do happen after all). Despite all of that, I don't think I particularly fell in love with any character. They were plenty interesting and funny. I liked them a lot, definitely. All of them on different occasions had also managed to make me want to smash my book on their faces repeatedly. So it was a fun journey. But I still did not feel that connection with any of them. At least not yet. We have another book to go so I am hoping we will see some lovely character development there. The plot is interesting, but not mindboggling. There aren't any insane plot twists. But it serves a tremendous scope for a great sequel.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jack +Books & Bourbon+

    So, stop me if you’ve heard this one; a demonically possessed paladin, a misogynistic teenage scholar, a criminal forger with a magic nose, and a portly assassin walk into a tavern... I don’t even remember when or how I first heard about Clockwork Boys, but I’m thinking it was a recommend through my local bookclub. Regardless of the how, I am thankful that it was put on my radar, as I had never heard of T. Kingfisher before, and likely would never have stumbled across this book on my own. And what So, stop me if you’ve heard this one; a demonically possessed paladin, a misogynistic teenage scholar, a criminal forger with a magic nose, and a portly assassin walk into a tavern... I don’t even remember when or how I first heard about Clockwork Boys, but I’m thinking it was a recommend through my local bookclub. Regardless of the how, I am thankful that it was put on my radar, as I had never heard of T. Kingfisher before, and likely would never have stumbled across this book on my own. And what a shame that would have been, as Clockwork Boys is a deftly written and surprisingly funny entry in the ever crowded high fantasy genre. After reading a hefty amount of gritty fantasy novels where there are epic battles galore and political squabbles up the wazoo, it’s actually refreshing to spend time with a smaller cast of characters on a smaller-scale adventure. And did I mention that it’s funny? Because holy hell does this book bring on the chuckles! ”Not much to tell. My mother was a very high-class courtesan who counted her fertile days by the moon. Her beauty was impeccable, her math skills were not.” She swept a hand at herself. “And here I am.” As with all my reviews, I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum. If it’s not discussed in the official book synopsis, I’ll do my level best to avoid mentioning it here. While Clockwork Boys isn’t lacking in ideas or drama, it’s the cast of characters that really sells the tale. Each of our protagonists has their own reason for being sent on what everyone thinks is a suicide mission...and only one of them really wants to be there. As such, tempers are high and our heroes are almost always bickering and sniping at each other, usually with comic results. “My legs will never close again,” she muttered. “That would be music to my ears if I wasn’t dying,” said Brenner, a step below her. While we have four main characters to follow, the forger Slate and the paladin Caliban take the majority of the page time. Which is just as well, as they are more interesting than the assassin Brenner and the scholar Edmund. Slate slightly edges out Caliban for number of pages from her point of view, and that’s totally fine with me. She is a rather non-traditional fantasy hero, with her allergies, self-defeating outlook, and decidedly niche talent for document forging. It takes a special kind of author to make a character like that work, but T. Kingfisher is more than up to the task. With her determination, wry and sarcastic sense of humor, and desperate desire to maybe do something good for a change, she captured my attention from the get-go. Nearly every other line of her dialogue was funny in some way or another, and I always looked forward to her chapters. ”Brenner said you were some kind of…guerrilla accountant.” Her gaze sharpened. “Did he? Damnit.” As for Caliban, he is a cool twist on the usual, and overdone, “holier than thou” paladins. And this is coming from a guy who loves the paladin concept, and generally plays as one in tabletop gaming. As someone who was possessed by a demon and subsequently lost touch with his holy calling, Caliban has much to learn about life without the usual trappings of celebrated church service. I really liked the idea of a paladin who had to learn to get the stick out of his ass and live a little and as his gruff and rigid exterior began to melt away, I found myself enjoying his character more and more. ”Not a god, just a paladin,” he muttered, then belied his irritated tone by waiting patiently while she used his shoulder as a stepladder and ascended the heights of Mt. Equine. Brenner, the assassin, is a decent character, but we just don’t get enough time with him to really connect or learn what makes him tick. Maybe that will come in the next book? He had a few decent moments to shine, but is largely overshadowed by Slate and Caliban. The same goes for Learned Edmund, the scholar who actually volunteered for the mission, making him potentially crazier than any of the other characters. Again, we don’t spend enough time with him to really know him, but he does get a bit of character growth, which helps. What makes these characters really fun is that, Learned Edmund aside, they are all criminals and lowlifes, not the usual “save the world” fare. It puts a unique twist on the story, and forces us readers to maybe reevaluate what it means to be a hero. There wasn’t much food, but Caliban insisted on leaving coins to pay for what they took. Slate glanced at Brenner, gave a quarter of a nod, and he pocketed the coins when the paladin wasn’t looking. Aside from the quirky and memorable characters, T. Kingfisher has crafted a tale that doesn’t quite play out like you think it will. There are some true surprises in store, and while the world building plays second fiddle to the character interactions, the story is never dull and the locations are varied. The plot also moves along at a good clip...this book is never boring. And beneath all the humor and the anti-heroism and the strange plot twists, there’s a bit of real heart to this story. Nothing that’ll make a reader weepy, but a few great character interactions and observations that give our characters further dimension and depth. It seemed to be a cue to speak again. Learned Edmund sighed. “Those poor people.” “Nothing we could do, priest.” Brenner reached out and slapped him on the shoulder. Learned Edmund started, and then offered him a tentative smile. “I don’t know why we even bother having wars,” muttered Slate. “The world’s trying to kill us fast enough as it is.” Caliban gazed between his horse’s ears, and said nothing at all. Though it’s nowhere near the level of George R.R. Martin’s writings, there is a bit of gore and naughtiness thrown in, but only in small doses. It’s definitely not kid friendly, which I can admire, but nothing too terrible. Again, most of anything that comes up, gore or sexiness included, is tinged with humor. Blood had painted her skin with a thin, irregular layer of clotted red. As an object of erotic interest, her breasts currently rated somewhere below a dead flounder. Caliban stared at him. And reached down. And drew about an inch of steel. Oh my god, they’re really doing it. They’re really going to have a goddamn dick-measuring contest right here in the woods with a bunch of murderous deer-people after us. Sadly, there are a few areas where the book suffers some missteps. Things are mentioned to the characters several times in one chapter, and in the very next chapter they seem to have forgotten and it gets brought up again. Also, because the book is so event and interaction driven, we don’t always get a full sense of what the larger scheme of things is like, who the people in power are, or even how the various locations relate to each other. And it seems like the last push to Anuket City was basically just T. Kingfisher’s way of just getting them there with minimal fuss or description, because this part of the book seemed tonally different than the rest. It’s like she had nothing left in her for this portion of the book, and just was like “screw it” and threw in some weirdness to hide the fact. My only other gripe is that the book is over too fast. It seems like we finally get a major event under our belts, the characters are finally starting to find a bit of cohesion, and then BAM...the end. It’s not even a cliffhanger so much as an unexpected application of the brakes on a wide open highway. But, those nitpicks aside, this is solid and entertaining reading, and I will definitely be checking out the next book when it comes out. I enjoyed the time spent with our motley band, and can’t wait to see what crazy shenanigans they get up to when we revisit them!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. It's T. Kingfisher writing a heist novel! What more could I want?? Alex alerted me to the presence of this book two weeks ago, and it was honestly a mistake to wait so long to start it. I am really not sure what I was thinking. This is really the first of a two-part book, not a standalone novel. For now, I'll say that this is an interesting and unique fantasy world, which is why T. Kingfisher is an auto-buy every time, and the writing is charming and funny without lowering THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. It's T. Kingfisher writing a heist novel! What more could I want?? Alex alerted me to the presence of this book two weeks ago, and it was honestly a mistake to wait so long to start it. I am really not sure what I was thinking. This is really the first of a two-part book, not a standalone novel. For now, I'll say that this is an interesting and unique fantasy world, which is why T. Kingfisher is an auto-buy every time, and the writing is charming and funny without lowering the stakes. The inversion of tropes is particularly good. (view spoiler)[The scene where they avoid the clocktaurs on the road, and Caliban belatedly realizes that he would have gotten them all killed if he had been in charge, is great. If anything, this book's only fault is that the characters are so self-aware, but I can let it slide because it seems like demon possession and 4 months of solitary confinement would breed self-awareness. I also really liked Slate rescuing Brenner and Caliban from the rune camp. (hide spoiler)]

  9. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    He had prayed in the cell for hours Days. He had kept vigil on his knees, praying. Not for forgiveness, not for mercy - he deserved neither - but simply for a death. The god had not answered. The hollow place in his soul stayed empty. Weeks had stretched to months, and he had stopped believing that there would ever be an answer. His faith had turned to bitterness and bile. And then a little brown sparrow of a woman had come to the cell door and begun to sneeze. I feel so bad for having left this o He had prayed in the cell for hours Days. He had kept vigil on his knees, praying. Not for forgiveness, not for mercy - he deserved neither - but simply for a death. The god had not answered. The hollow place in his soul stayed empty. Weeks had stretched to months, and he had stopped believing that there would ever be an answer. His faith had turned to bitterness and bile. And then a little brown sparrow of a woman had come to the cell door and begun to sneeze. I feel so bad for having left this one on my TBR for so long - I enjoyed every moment of it, and it's my own damn fault I waited so long. The extract above is quite serious, but the overall tone of the book matches that seriousness with the best kind of fantasy humour. There's high stakes, and a quest to save the world, but along the way people get to be people - and there's a lot of ways that can be amusing. It's all too easy to throw around the words "rag-tag band" and "certain death" and "rich fantasy world", but there they are anyway, because this book hits on some of the better fantasy tropes, without ever feeling like anything that's come before it. Real life is allowed in - the first few days of riding are absolute hell for the characters not used to it, camping is mostly soggy and cold, and the only thing worse to deal with than the horses are the mules - Mules were like horses who could plan. It actually reminds me a bit of Terry Pratchett - not in writing style, because they're completely different - but in the ability to take relatively familiar, or at least similar, fantasy races and themes, put them in a vivid and beautiful world, marry them with humour, use that humour to let you tackle some hugely heavy issues without weighing the book down in the slightest, and have the whole thing balance itself out into a complete delight that forms an emomtional attachment to the reader. This reader, at least, in case that wasn't clear enough from that massive run-on sentence! Onto the next. And hip hooray for books like this!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Veronique

    This - first half of a story in two parts - turned out to be so much fun! First, the narration grabs you early on - how is it that some authors can do this with only a handful of sentences while others take pages and pages? Then, you have a group of disparate but likeable anti-heroes thrown into a suicide mission in a fantasy setting. So far, so good. What made this above average is that the author put a lot in the characters, especially the ninja accountant (!) and the paladin, their backstory This - first half of a story in two parts - turned out to be so much fun! First, the narration grabs you early on - how is it that some authors can do this with only a handful of sentences while others take pages and pages? Then, you have a group of disparate but likeable anti-heroes thrown into a suicide mission in a fantasy setting. So far, so good. What made this above average is that the author put a lot in the characters, especially the ninja accountant (!) and the paladin, their backstory and motivations, but also on their dynamics on this journey, while adding a lot of humour, without becoming a farce. I was instantly sucked in this adventure and am running to get my hands on the second part.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    The first half of a two-part novel which features a desperate (and probably suicidal) fact-finding mission to a country that's deploying monstrous centaur-like clockwork monstrosities in battle with its neighbors. It's at times very funny, and very serious, and always brilliant. The group on the mission include a fallen paladin, a guerilla accountant, an assassin and a not-very-worldy priest of knowledge. If "guerilla accountant" doesn't grab you, I'm not sure I know what attracts people to fanta The first half of a two-part novel which features a desperate (and probably suicidal) fact-finding mission to a country that's deploying monstrous centaur-like clockwork monstrosities in battle with its neighbors. It's at times very funny, and very serious, and always brilliant. The group on the mission include a fallen paladin, a guerilla accountant, an assassin and a not-very-worldy priest of knowledge. If "guerilla accountant" doesn't grab you, I'm not sure I know what attracts people to fantasy books ... (the author was describing the book as her ninja accountant book for a long time).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Skye Kilaen

    The role playing adventure (in novel form) of my dreams, if I'd ever dreamt about a reluctant heroine woman of color forger and a guilt-ridden demon-possessed white guy paladin on a quest to discover the origin of giant unstoppable war machines that are ravaging the world. Sadly, my dreams are never that interesting. Kingfisher is amazing at updating the classic adventure and fantasy feeling with deep character development, huge worldbuilding, and feminism. She is so funny and so imaginative, an The role playing adventure (in novel form) of my dreams, if I'd ever dreamt about a reluctant heroine woman of color forger and a guilt-ridden demon-possessed white guy paladin on a quest to discover the origin of giant unstoppable war machines that are ravaging the world. Sadly, my dreams are never that interesting. Kingfisher is amazing at updating the classic adventure and fantasy feeling with deep character development, huge worldbuilding, and feminism. She is so funny and so imaginative, and she knows how to break my heart in the best way. I tried not to immediately start the second book of this duology when I finished the first, and I failed. I liked it even *better*. Really, really good stuff.

  13. 4 out of 5

    ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)

    🤧 It's All about the Handkerchiefs Buddy Read (IAatHBR™) with Fluffy, Karen and Kate over at the MacHalo Asylum and stuff 🤧 Actual rating: 4.5 stars. Guerilla accountants and murderous knights and heartless assassins and hilariously misogynistic monks, oh my! + rosemary and allergies (gesundheit!) + carnivorous tattoos + possessed cows + quite very dead nuns + savage vegetables + hahahahahaha those dialogues + withering genitals and liquefying bowels 😂😂 (don't ask) + dancing headless zombie rats ( 🤧 It's All about the Handkerchiefs Buddy Read (IAatHBR™) with Fluffy, Karen and Kate over at the MacHalo Asylum and stuff 🤧 Actual rating: 4.5 stars. Guerilla accountants and murderous knights and heartless assassins and hilariously misogynistic monks, oh my! + rosemary and allergies (gesundheit!) + carnivorous tattoos + possessed cows + quite very dead nuns + savage vegetables + hahahahahaha those dialogues + withering genitals and liquefying bowels 😂😂 (don't ask) + dancing headless zombie rats (I have it on good authority they like conga best) + “squiickrunch” (reminds of Jojo Cabal's “SNAP!” that) + yummy (if rotting) demons and their super enlightening, on point—or not—gibberish (pretty sure we've got Ghylspwr's third cousin thrice removed here) + Fantasy meets Steampunk, yay! + hahahahahaha those evil bastards horses (their sole purpose in life is to make puny humans' lives miserable, methinks) + crosses between badgers and haystacks who reek of garbage and old goat (and double as crutches) + handkerchiefs (never leave home without them) + slightly homicidal deer people + chivalry not being that dead + hahahahahaha those internal monologues + crazy ladies with crazy friends = me feeling kinda sorta a little like... 👋 To be continued and stuff. · Book 2: The Wonder Engine ★★★★ [Pre-review nonsense] Oh my fish, that was unexpectedly Super Extra Entertaining and Fun and Hilarious and Stuff (SEEaFaHaS™)! Don't ask Review to come and stuff!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    Five stars because this made me laugh all the way through, while also being quite serious. Love love the characters.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    High fantasy adventure written by Ursula Vernon (under her T. Kingfisher name) means that it's wry and humane and witty as well as fabulously imaginative. I am always a huge fan of disparate people (all of whom are on their last rope) being forced together and becoming a family! And I enjoyed this hugely. It's the first book in a duology, and the ending is really NOT a true ending at all (or intended to be) - so I'm very glad the second book is already out, because I went straight on the second I High fantasy adventure written by Ursula Vernon (under her T. Kingfisher name) means that it's wry and humane and witty as well as fabulously imaginative. I am always a huge fan of disparate people (all of whom are on their last rope) being forced together and becoming a family! And I enjoyed this hugely. It's the first book in a duology, and the ending is really NOT a true ending at all (or intended to be) - so I'm very glad the second book is already out, because I went straight on the second I finished and am happily devouring that now, too. :)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alissa

    “You two,” said the paladin slowly, “have a very odd relationship.” “Oh, come on, if your friends aren’t willing to strangle you, what kind of friends are they?”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wiebke (1book1review)

    Oh this was so much fun. This carries you on banter alone through the pages, but it sprinkles in an interesting fantasy world and some loveable characters with secrets and an overall quest to follow.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Rose

    It's rare that a book makes me laugh out loud, and it's even rarer that a book makes me laugh so hard my lungs hurt from lack of air as tears run down my cheeks. Admittedly, what made me laugh so intensely in this story was really quite a brief, silly moment where our woefully-bad-at-horseriding characters cannot deal with horses, but I was in absolute pieces for about 10 minutes and that earns this book a star all by itself. This novel is short and sweet (but more short than sweet), following a It's rare that a book makes me laugh out loud, and it's even rarer that a book makes me laugh so hard my lungs hurt from lack of air as tears run down my cheeks. Admittedly, what made me laugh so intensely in this story was really quite a brief, silly moment where our woefully-bad-at-horseriding characters cannot deal with horses, but I was in absolute pieces for about 10 minutes and that earns this book a star all by itself. This novel is short and sweet (but more short than sweet), following a thieving forger as she puts together a crew who go on a suicide mission to learn about and destroy the 'clockwork boys', which are steampunky statues really good at murder. Slate the forger is a witty, no nonsense 30 year old who has a wise-cracking assassin as a best friend, and who recruits a noble yet criminal paladin and a religious scholar to her mission. The cast are absolutely wonderful - all fun, interesting characters who have great chemistry between them and who mostly grow a little throughout the novel. Just imagine playing D&D with your closest and wittiest friends, and you'll have a good idea of what you'll be reading. (On a side note, if you like the McElroy Brothers' 'Adventure Zone', you will love this). Story wise, the suicide mission is just fine. I wasn't particularly intrigued by the clockwork boys, but the characters stumbling from one madcap scenario to the other while snarking at each other was more than enough to keep me reading. The world-building is pretty minimal, however, which combined with the story being just fine caused me to drop a star. A word of warning - while I've harked on about the fun, the snark, and the laughter, this novel does have a couple of dark moments, and part 2 gets darker. Just a heads up.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This one is a solid three. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. If someone asked me "what have you read that's good lately", this one wouldn't get a mention. The characters seem pretty standard... the ultra good knight, the seedy assassin, the nerdy scholar, etc. I will continue on to the second book - which is really just the 2nd half of this one. Maybe my overall opinion will change. So to sum up. Good book, but it shouldn't be at the top of your reading list. This one is a solid three. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. If someone asked me "what have you read that's good lately", this one wouldn't get a mention. The characters seem pretty standard... the ultra good knight, the seedy assassin, the nerdy scholar, etc. I will continue on to the second book - which is really just the 2nd half of this one. Maybe my overall opinion will change. So to sum up. Good book, but it shouldn't be at the top of your reading list.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    A surprisingly good read. I went in with very little expectation and really did enjoy the read. The characters are very well written, especially the 'love to hate' bad guy. I jumped straight into book two, but be warned. The publishers did not pony up for book three, so even though book 2 is a very good read as well, it is hugely disappointing to find that the series cannot be finished. A surprisingly good read. I went in with very little expectation and really did enjoy the read. The characters are very well written, especially the 'love to hate' bad guy. I jumped straight into book two, but be warned. The publishers did not pony up for book three, so even though book 2 is a very good read as well, it is hugely disappointing to find that the series cannot be finished.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Allison Hurd

    I think I like her retellings better so far. This was cute and all, but it didn't feel as alive as Bryony and Roses and the humor was more stilted. CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics) (view spoiler)[murder, demonic possession, graphic gore, body horror. (hide spoiler)] Things to love: -The story impetus. So many of these types of stories where bad guys have to go do a good guy thing don't make sense. I think this book handles it well and makes an old trope interesting. -Th I think I like her retellings better so far. This was cute and all, but it didn't feel as alive as Bryony and Roses and the humor was more stilted. CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics) (view spoiler)[murder, demonic possession, graphic gore, body horror. (hide spoiler)] Things to love: -The story impetus. So many of these types of stories where bad guys have to go do a good guy thing don't make sense. I think this book handles it well and makes an old trope interesting. -The cast. Again, super tropey but they feel three-dimensional. Like yes, that's the crazy one and that's the snooty one and so on, but they have more going on than just that. -All the demons! I loved this part! Why aren't rotting soul demons more prevalent, they're awesome! Things that were irksome: -OMG just do it already. The will they/won't they thing doesn't work when there are 2 adults capable of consenting and no moral barriers to overcome. It just becomes obnoxious. I get it, you find the other one interesting. No vows you would break? No lovers you're committed to? No illness/demon things that are contagious? Okay, pants off dance off time. Feel guilty about the people left out? Well, it's the end of the world, maybe now's a good time for experimentation. -The internal monologues. While it's third person limited, the narration POV goes between two characters, and their personal thoughts are shown in italics. There's rarely anything other than context to show which one is doing the "talking" and the internal monologues are just that--the sort of bullshit snide comments you make to yourself. It was distracting, the format irritating, and they felt like they were trying too hard to be funny. -Not a full story. I could feel the outline in this story. Chapter 1: meet. Chapter 2: sparks...Chapter 6: character growth. It didn't feel organic, and the places we paused for witty banter or random encounters felt staged rather than in service of a greater story. There didn't feel like anything was being built or foreshadowed or anything. It was just landmarks, not even plot points. -Cliffhanger ending. Not only was it not a story that built on itself, it has no conclusion of its own! The one sort of biggish plot thing accomplished is a literal afterthought and the second book is really just the middle and end of this story. I hate that so much. Tell a full story! It's still fun and it's short, seeing as it's half a book, so not a bad read. But have the second on hand if you intend to start it, lest you suffer the same as our two shy would-be screwbuddies.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    3.5 stars. Cute and funny. Reminded me of The Republic of Thieves in its humor and Paladin of Souls with the paladin character’s inner dilemma. A cliff hanger in some ways although not so much at a nail-biting part. Looking forward to book 2

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Dacyczyn

    I REALLY wanted to like this one after my delight with "Bryony and Roses" by the same author. Unfortunately it just didn't charm me in the same way. I think this one might be better for fans of D&D, as it had that kind of *feel* to it. You've got your band of mismatched travelers: a token-female thief/forger leading the gang (Slate), a snarky brooding assassin (Brenner), a noble but formerly-possessed paladin knight (Sir Caliban), and a brilliant but sheltered scholar priest (Learned Edmund). Yo I REALLY wanted to like this one after my delight with "Bryony and Roses" by the same author. Unfortunately it just didn't charm me in the same way. I think this one might be better for fans of D&D, as it had that kind of *feel* to it. You've got your band of mismatched travelers: a token-female thief/forger leading the gang (Slate), a snarky brooding assassin (Brenner), a noble but formerly-possessed paladin knight (Sir Caliban), and a brilliant but sheltered scholar priest (Learned Edmund). You've got your quest: a suicide mission to get into a distant city in hopes of finding a way to defeat the "Clockwork Boys", the mechanical centaurs that have been terrorizing the countryside (though you only see them once in this book). And you've got your vague fantasy-ish world full of interesting creatures that may or may not be friendly, which you encounter one after the other in episodic sequence. The characters all feel a bit trope-y, but I think this is intentional by the author, kind of playing with the D&D style formula. This didn't bother me, but I think some people might think these are too clichéd. The only trope that DID annoy me was the obligatory love triangle between Slate, Brenner (with whom she has history), and Caladin (who is handsome and chivalrous). Can't we just have a female character who's plain-looking WITHOUT her being a magnet for sexy dudes? *sigh* I was initially getting "The Thief" by Megan Whalen Turner *vibes* from this because there were some parallels: one of the group members is plucked from prison in order to accompany the others on a secret quest behind enemy lines. Washing off of prison grime. Much griping about riding on horses. A veerrrryyyy long journey that's mostly just plodding through empty countryside. A hidden road through the hills. The group is even made up of unlikely characters that are kind of similar to the Magus, Pol, Gen, Useless the Elder, and Useless the Younger. I kept trying to fit the characters of THIS book into the same slots as that one (forger/thief, paladin/soldier, assassin/traitor, scholar/scholar, naive young lad/naive young lad) but in the end they are different characters. Aside from the initial journey plot, this book ultimately veered away from "The Thief" but I kept wanting to hunt out parallels anyway. So...why didn't I love this book? Part of the reason is that it's not a complete story. This was foolishly divided into a duology, with basically not much aside from journeying and an encounter with deer people happening in Book 1. I assume that Book 2 is where the bigger part of the action happens, but I'm not sure I'm going to bother. From other reviewers, I know that the romancey stuff gets even stronger in that book, and I found it barely tolerable in this one. I wish that the two books were put back together as one book, and polished up a bit more. As it is, I probably won't read the sequel. I didn't love the first book enough to request book 2 from out-of-state interlibrary loan like I did this one, which takes a few weeks to arrive, probably more since we're in the middle of a pandemic. Nor do I feel like ordering my own copy online, so.... What about the world building? Well, there's almost none. We get the names of a couple of cities (countries?) but that's about it. I can't tell is this is medievalish (with filing cabinets?) or kinda steampunk (with knights?) or what. If it's an entirely made up world not based on any particular earthly time period, then I think we need a BIT more description. What kind of forests are they riding through? Is this a monarchy based system or feudal or what? What kind of climate are we dealing with here? Do they have coconuts? No idea. I also didn't really care for the alternating third-person POVs, where we hear different characters' thoughts, shown as italics in the text. These inner thoughts rarely lent much to the story, nor did the garbled gibberish from Caliban's literal-inner-demon (dead, but still talking). I think most of these parts could have been omitted, reduced, or just tweaked a bit more to make them less disruptive to the narrative. I thought the story relied a bit too much on the novelty of Slate's psychic sneezing (she smells rosemary whenever her powers want her to pay attention to something), which were getting pretty excessive and made me wonder if she did anything except admire paladins and have allergy attacks. She does eventually display some badass traits, but not without a lot of sneezing along the way. There were also plenty of mentions of bodily functions, vomiting, etc, just to lighten things up. There is SOME banter in this book, but somehow it didn't feel as clever and funny to me as the bits from "Bryony and Roses". It almost felt forced, like I knew that certain lines of dialogue are SUPPOSED to be funny more than they actually were. The overall humorous tone of the writing in this book somehow didn't quite click with me. It just felt a bit unpolished? Not effortless? Uneffortless? Effortful? Well, there ought to be a word for whatever this is. I'd say it feels a bit "amateur", but this is an author who's written quite a few books by now, so it's not really that.... I guess, at the end of the day, humor is hard to match up with readers sometimes. I think I'd put the humor style in the same general category as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Kind of a slapstick style that I recognize as funny to many people, but it didn't work for me. So I guess that's it: this is D&D style quest story with a Hitchhiker's humorous feel to it. If both of those things are up your alley, then definitely check this one out. It didn't work for me, but I seem to be in the minority about this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen ⚜Mess⚜

    MacHalo Buddy Read The amazing Fluffy put us up to it. I had so much fun reading this! Chapter 7 was hilarious. This was a glorious tale of a bunch of misfit adventurers. I cannot wait to read the second book. Shut up, Brenner MacHalo Buddy Read The amazing Fluffy put us up to it. I had so much fun reading this! Chapter 7 was hilarious. This was a glorious tale of a bunch of misfit adventurers. I cannot wait to read the second book. Shut up, Brenner

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    Slate is a forger and thief, Brenner an assassin, Sir Caliban a former knight-champion of the Dreaming God. In that capacity, he killed or exorcised, depending on circumstances, demons who had possessed people or animals. Then he got careless and a demon possessed him,and it was exorcised, but not until after he'd killed eight temple nuns. They're all condemned criminals, but they've been offered pardons and rewards if they can successfully complete a mission to Anuket City, to find a wayto defea Slate is a forger and thief, Brenner an assassin, Sir Caliban a former knight-champion of the Dreaming God. In that capacity, he killed or exorcised, depending on circumstances, demons who had possessed people or animals. Then he got careless and a demon possessed him,and it was exorcised, but not until after he'd killed eight temple nuns. They're all condemned criminals, but they've been offered pardons and rewards if they can successfully complete a mission to Anuket City, to find a wayto defeat the Clockwork Boys, giant centaur-like creatures apparently made out of machine parts, who are ravaging the countryside and threatening the kingdom that, however questionable their characters, our three criminals are subjects of. Slate, possibly because she's the most stable and educated of the three (Brenner may be stable, but not all that educated, and Caliban may be far more educated, but it's not at all clear he's stable), is in charge of this little group. But they're not going to Anuket City alone. They'll have a scholar with them. Learned Edmund is outraged to learn that he's not going to command the mission. He's the one that has the most information about the Clockwork Boys, after all, and the ability read the journal of a scholar who's going missing, if they ever find it and him. Sadly, he's also a nineteen-year-old boy, a dedicat of a the ragingly misogynistic cult of the Many-Armed God, and has no idea how to conduct such an expedition. Learned Edmund is compelled, eventually, to accept this unwelcome piece of reality. This is in many ways your basic "misfit comrades on a mission." What's different is Kingfisher's skill at drawing interesting, compelling characters. They are all, including Learned Edmund, weirdly likable characters, and for all the varying backgrounds and levels of education, there's a lot of wit, here. In many ways, the most fascinating part of this book are the characters and their interrelationships, and their responses to what they encounter along the way. This is the first half of the story, but the second half, The Wonder Engine, is also available. I'm looking forward to that. Highly recommended. I bought this audiobook.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maija

    The first part of T. Kingfisher's/Ursula Vernon's high fantasy Clocktaur War duology, which is more like one book split into two parts. The second book in the duology is called The Wonder Engine, and you can consider this to be my review for the both of them. This tells about a group of criminals who are sent on a suicide mission to a nearby kingdom to try to find out the secret behind their unstoppable soldiers, these mechanical creations called Clockwork Boys. The criminals - a forger, a disgr The first part of T. Kingfisher's/Ursula Vernon's high fantasy Clocktaur War duology, which is more like one book split into two parts. The second book in the duology is called The Wonder Engine, and you can consider this to be my review for the both of them. This tells about a group of criminals who are sent on a suicide mission to a nearby kingdom to try to find out the secret behind their unstoppable soldiers, these mechanical creations called Clockwork Boys. The criminals - a forger, a disgraced paladin, and an assassin - are accompanied by a scholar and a sort of badger-like being called a gnole. I read this book because I've loved pretty much all of Vernon's work I've read, so I always pick up whatever she publishes, and I thought her witty writing style worked well with a fantasy quest adventure novel. While this is a traditional high fantasy adventure or quest story, it has a fresh feel and a fun take on the characters. I really enjoyed the character dynamics. There are two POV characters, the forger Slade, who was my favourite, and the Paladin, Caliban. I didn't like the scholar, Learned Edmund, at the start, because he had been taught to be very misogynistic by his brotherhood, so he was very tiring (and I just have a low tolerance for that these days), but he becomes much more tolerable in the second book as he is changed by the journey. In this first book, the only thing I didn't like was this weird chapter at the end of their journey to Anuket City, which I wasn't sure matched the rest of the book. I'm also not a big fan of nonsense a la Alice in Wonderland and similar, and that chapter was just very random. Otherwise, what an enjoyable and fun duology! I'm happy that I don't only enjoy Vernon's fairy tale retellings, but her high fantasy as well.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    This was unbelievably delightful. A fairy tale for grownups filled with wonder, cannibalistic tattoos, demons, deer people, a gnole. T. Kingfisher’s world is enchanting to me. Slate, a forger charged with treason is joined by a demon-ridden paladin named Caliban; an assassin and former lover named Brenner; and a young scholar named Learned Edmund. They are on a suicide mission to Anuket City to find a way to save their people from the Clockwork Boys on their murderous rampage through the country This was unbelievably delightful. A fairy tale for grownups filled with wonder, cannibalistic tattoos, demons, deer people, a gnole. T. Kingfisher’s world is enchanting to me. Slate, a forger charged with treason is joined by a demon-ridden paladin named Caliban; an assassin and former lover named Brenner; and a young scholar named Learned Edmund. They are on a suicide mission to Anuket City to find a way to save their people from the Clockwork Boys on their murderous rampage through the countryside. There are elements of this story that reminded me of Lois McMaster Bujold’s World of the Five Gods which I adored with an added element of Steampunk. I’m so looking forward to reading the second half of this story. My biggest criticism of this might be simply that I want more.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Girl

    This is a book that marries Pratchett with bits of Dragon Age and Dishonored in an extremely readable way. It's funny, it's captivating, it can be profound, it can be very cute. Onward to volume 2! This is a book that marries Pratchett with bits of Dragon Age and Dishonored in an extremely readable way. It's funny, it's captivating, it can be profound, it can be very cute. Onward to volume 2!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tasha Robinson

    It's almost embarrassing how perfectly this book fits my tastes. It pulls together some of my favorite tropes into a thing that feels perfectly designed for my DNA: a perfectly satisfying read that I wanted to savor while reading, but also did not want to put down. There's a paladin with a terrible past and a huge boatload of guilt. There's a competent, driven, drab woman with a weird specialty as a ninja accountant. (A more serious and thought-through profession than what it sounds like, especi It's almost embarrassing how perfectly this book fits my tastes. It pulls together some of my favorite tropes into a thing that feels perfectly designed for my DNA: a perfectly satisfying read that I wanted to savor while reading, but also did not want to put down. There's a paladin with a terrible past and a huge boatload of guilt. There's a competent, driven, drab woman with a weird specialty as a ninja accountant. (A more serious and thought-through profession than what it sounds like, especially since she doesn't actually describe herself that way, she's just a forger with morals and math skills.) A cold-hearted assassin who apparently just really likes killing people. And a dipshit misogynist researcher/scribe whom everyone regards with a weary eye-roll. And there's a suicide mission that pulls them all together. This is the first half of a single complete story, and in this half, there's a lot of travel and information, but it mostly feels like vital character work, given how much it just focuses on the barriers to getting to where they can properly get down to the suicide mission part of the story. This doesn't have much of the absurdist edge of a lot of Ursula Vernon's books, which have always reminded me a bit of late-period Terry Pratchett — serious and satisfying narratives, but with sudden enjoyable lurches into goofery. This is the first book of hers that really didn't give me that feeling, because it's more sexually frank than Pratchett's work, and it goes into realms of adult feeling that she hasn't explored in anything of hers I've read. The slow-burn longing between two of the characters, and the love triangle that forms between three of them — I hope it doesn't sound insulting to say it reminds me a lot of fan fiction, because what I mean by that is that it finds a really compelling emotion of longing and frustration, and marinates in it in a way a lot of the fanfic I've read does. It also gave me some of the same feeling of "I hope they save the kingdom and don't get killed and all that, but mostly I really really want these two characters to get over themselves and bang already. I'm normally not a fan of will-they-won't-they narratives (c'mon, eventually they will), but man, did I love this one. Eventually, though, there's an alien kingdom and a weird society and a new species and a big crisis, but that mostly comes in the second half, book 2.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    The first part of a two part story of a quest to find out what the terrifying large, clockwork constructions are in a town. I love the ninja accountant Slate, and Vernon's take on a paladin. And I definitely want more Grimehug! The first part of a two part story of a quest to find out what the terrifying large, clockwork constructions are in a town. I love the ninja accountant Slate, and Vernon's take on a paladin. And I definitely want more Grimehug!

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