Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: Timekeeper

Title: Timekeeper
Series: Book 1 of Timekeeper series
Author: Tara Sim
Genre: Teen, young adult, steampunk, Victorian, fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely fantastic! Timekeeper has everything a good book should have plus even more! 
A teen/young adult fantasy story set in Victorian London based around time control (not travel but control) with a steampunk flavor. The best part is that our male main character is gay and has an adorable love interest. Everything about Tara Sim's Timekeeper is a check in the great column; but let me break some of it down for you. 

With a backdrop like Victorian London it's hard not to feel like everything is gorgeous in so many ways. Add in steampunk elements, lots of clock towers, and steam powered 'autos' and you've got the beginnings of a beautiful place to visit. Even modern day London is known for its famous clock tower Big Ben. This clock tower is not only an important fixture in Sim's London (as in ours today) but Big Ben is also a bit of a character in and of himself. Plus, like all of our clock towers in this world, 'he' is essential to time moving correctly in London. 

A World of Time
The lore says that time was once controlled by a god, Aetas; but at some time he left the world and time became 'controlled' by each area's clock tower. Now this is very important as the clock towers, if broken, damaged or destroyed, can change the perception of time to the areas people (ie: town, city, village, etc.). Without a functioning clock tower a town can become stopped. Suspended in time and stuck in an existence in which no one can enter or leave that area. Damaged clocks may cause time to skip around, move too fast or too slow, or just make residents feel uncomfortable. Obviously these towers are really important! 
Sim has taken the concept of time and twisted it about; but without having time travel or weird physics rules involved. And you might be thinking that it sounds odd. It is a little bit odd at first, but it is also elegant and the rules of time and the clocks that Sim sets up hold up right to the last page. 
In order to keep time on schedule and everyone synced up; London has a guild of clock mechanics who fix and maintain all the clock towers in England. And, of course, our main character is a member of this elite and essential group. 

All the characters in Timekeeper are complex and interesting and that includes our main boy Danny. A gay, 17-year-old mechanic, with a father stuck in time and a grieving mother; life is pretty rough for Danny. Luckily he has a wonderful gal pal Cassie (an auto mechanic in her own right), a mentor and folks who are seemingly looking out for him.  
Now as wonderful as Danny is, and even though we experience the entire story from his perspective, the real star of the story is Colton, Danny's romantic interest. I can't say too much about Colton without spoiling anything except that he is a perfect 'blond bloke' and at times I wished I was a gay man that could fantasize about him in the same Danny does! 
This is one of the first, and only books with a leading male teen in which I thought the love story was gorgeous. It's set-up perfectly from the boys first encounter with one another, to the stories they tell each other, and the eventual strengths, weaknesses and fears they share. This relationship is poignant, bittersweet and perfect because it's imperfect. This is a romantic teen story I will be happy to visit over and over again. The icing on the cupcake is that it's a love story between two men. 

There is a lot of plot happening in Timekeeper all at once, and yet it all connects. Sim does a great job of ensuring you are engaged in the plot via the characters (there is no plot for plot's sake). In all instances events that happen both affect our characters AND play a part in the overall plot. Just like a well written book should be. None of the teen genre cliches (where things are too convenient or you can't figure out why something happened) exist here. Everything is set-up to happen with a reason and with context so that no one thing feels out of place in the story. 

Timekeeper Needs More Exposure!
Published by a smaller publishing house, Sky Pony Press, Tara Sim and her world need our help to make it big! This gem of a novel is not as well known due to it not being published with any of the major publishing houses. And I have to say, for me, that is maybe part of it's magic! It's always so nice to read great books from publishers that may not have the same resources to push their books to the top with money. Instead these books must reach the top audiences based on their merit. 

Even if this wasn't a debut novel I would think it a wonderful read. But knowing that this is Tara Sim's debut novel makes it even more impressive in my opinion. The first in a series, Timekeeper can be read on it's own if you don't desire to carry forward. Although once you are immersed in this world I'll be surprised if you aren't dying for more of this steampunk world and it's quirky characters. 
All I can say is that if you like teen novels and want to read a diverse love story you will not go wrong with Timekeeper. Add in the gothic feel of Victorian steampunk London, time gone astray, and the sorrow (and love) of a teenage boy and I'll be surprised if you can put this beauty down. 
I'm dying to get the second book (which was just released this month, Jan 2018) and can't wait to read more of Tara Sim's stories. This is a book worth searching for, ordering and adding to your print collection. I know my copy will have a place of honor with Hunger Games, Graceling, Incarceron and other favourite teen fantasy/dystopian books in my library.  

I was offered a review copy of this book last year but was dumb and didn't read it in time. Last week I found and bought a beautiful trade paperback copy. I'm so glad I didn't leave it behind! I only regret that it took me a year to find and read Timekeeper. I could have read this beauty and held the story in my heart for a whole year sooner! Onto my permanent print shelf it goes awaiting the day when I get to read it again.


Clare - Aimetu said...

Sometimes there are just too many books and not enough time - always lovely to read something that grabs you

Leonore Winterer said...

This sounds like a really great book :) You forgot to include your start rating in this post I think, but from the way you talk about it, it's pretty clear what you gave it. And as it happens, I'm still looking for a book for the 'A book with a LGBTQ+ protagonist' prompt for the reading challenge I'm attempting this year, so I might even be able to fit it in there and read it soon.