Title: The Doomsday Vault
Author: Steven Harper
Series: The Clockwork Empire (Book 1)
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
ISBN-10: 045146429X (Penguin/Roc)
ISBN-13: 978-0451464293 (Penguin/Roc)
Reviewed by: Kristie
The Honorable Alice B. Michaels is in a life or death struggle for survival—socially speaking, that is. At twenty-one, her age, her unladylike interest in automatons, and the unfortunate deaths of most of her family from the plague have sealed her fate as a less than desirable marriage prospect.
But a series of strange occurrences are about to lead Alice in a direction quite beyond the pale. High above the earth on the American airship USS Juniper, Gavin Ennock lives for the wind and the sky and his fiddle. After privateers attack the Juniper, he is stranded on the dank, dirty, and merciless streets of London. When Alice’s estranged aunt leaves her a peculiar inheritance, she encounters Gavin under most unusual—even shocking—circumstances.
Then Alice’s inheritance attracts the attention of the Third Ward, a clandestine organization that seizes the inventions of mad geniuses the plague leaves behind—all for the good of the Empire. But even the Third Ward has secrets. And when Alice and Gavin discover them, a choice must be made between the world and the Empire, no matter the risk to all they hold dear.
Quick & Dirty: An action packed and imaginative take on zombies and the creation of a steampunk world.
Opening Sentence: The zombie lurched out of the yellow fog and reached for the door on Alice’s hansom cab.
Alice B. Michaels was born into nobility. As the daughter of a Baron, she is expected to act like a proper lady. The Clockwork Plague has devastated her family and now they are in deep debt. Alice uses one last opportunity to seek a suitor, a rich man who would benefit from her title and pay off her family’s debts, since as a proper lady she cannot hold a job. Alice enjoys working on automatons and she has a skill for repairing them. Alice’s skill catches the eye of the Third Ward, an underground organization that has a need for her talents.
Gavin is a cabin boy on the USS Juniper. He is also a talented singer and fiddler. He is more comfortable soaring through the clouds than standing on dry land. After a series of unfortunate events, Gavin is stranded in London. He turns to playing his fiddle on the streets to gain money. A strange event leads to him meeting Alice, where they begin to develop feelings for each other and it is his musical talents that ultimately lead him to a job with the Third Ward.
Alice is head-strong but she cares a little too much about what people think about her. She struggles too hard to be the Baroness that society demands. Behind closed doors she is a strong, smart woman but it does take her a long time to get past the prejudices that she has put upon herself. Gavin is smart and he easily adapts to the situations he gets put in. Both characters do grow as the story moves along. My only complaint is that some of the character emotion is lost in the story but I did still like Alice and Gavin.
I really enjoyed the world-building in this book, zombies, mechanical men, airships and a clockwork cat (I would really love one of these). The Clockwork Plague is a highly contagious zombie disease that has some rare side effects that have led to the development of the “Steampunk” world. The world has adapted to living with the zombies. The Clockwork Men are incredible geniuses and the experiments they create are genuinely unique.
The Doomsday Vault is action-packed from beginning to end. There are very few slow parts. Even though there are zombies, The Doomsday Vault is not a horror story, it is strictly a fantasy read.
I found The Doomsday Vault to be a wonderful read. Mr. Harper created an entertaining world and I can’t wait to read The Impossible Cube to see what’s next for Gavin and Alice.
“Mr. Barton!” Alice shouted. “Your Boadicea has arrived. May I blow you a kiss?”
She’s gone completely crazy, Gavin thought. She’s gone crazy and he’s going to kill her.
But Barton paused. From inside the glass bubble, he peered down at her, and Gavin thought he saw a grin slide across his face.
“My queen!” he said. “Why are you wet?”
“I have crossed the wide ocean to be with you, my king,” Alice said. “And now that we’re together, nothing will stop us from ruling the world.”
Gavin stared. What the hell?
“Open your bubble and receive my blessing. O my king,” she continued. “Prove your love to me!”
“You’re trying to trick me,” Barton said. “You’re a queen of spades.” He raised the boulder again, and Gavin’s heart lurched.
“You refuse your queen?” Alice’s voice rose to a shriek. “Then watch my blood spill across the ground, for I cannot live without you!” She raised the knife and held it over her breast. Gavin gathered himself to lunge for her.
“Wait!” Barton set the boulder aside. “I love you, my queen. I can’t bear to see you in pain.” The bubble hissed and slid back, though Barton made no move to come down. “Climb up and receive my love.”
“With pleasure, my king.” From her sleeve Alice pulled a pair of tuning forks and brandished them like a pair of swords. Gavin slapped his own jacket pockets and discovered them empty. As the startled Barton watched, Alice clanged the forks together. From Gavin’s vantage point, the tritone was thin and weak, but Barton was only a few feet away from it. He clapped his hands over his ears and howled. The tone died down, but Alice struck the forks again to keep it going. Gavin didn’t wait. He burst out of hiding and swarmed up the mechanical to the seat where Barton screamed. One practiced punch put the man out. Gavin shook his stinging fist and looked down at Alice.
The Clockwork Empire Series:
3. The Dragon Men
FTC Advisory: Penguin/Roc provided me with a copy of The Doomsday Vault. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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