Elle and Marsh are finally married but unlike most newlyweds they don't settle into a grace period. Elle being a young woman, still has a taste for adventure and does not want to put her piloting days behind her wheras; Marsh who has lived a long life as a warlock is read to settle into domesticity. They being to butt heads a Elle chafes as being limited and Marsh demands more time. While Elle is away on a case, Marsh decides to take a case. What he cannot imagine is that will cost him his heart and make him a clockwork monstrosity. It is up to Elle to with the help of the vampire Loisa Beladodia to track Marsh down in the process deal with the threat that the White Lady places on the nation.
A Clockwork Heart started off very slowly and found myself struggle to remember what I liked about Marsh. His behavior was absolutely patriarchal and controlling and the fact that he used love to justify it, didn't sit well with me. It affected my feelings so much that when he was kidnapped, it was difficult to invest in the idea that he needed or deserved a rescue despite the desperate situation that he was in.
That said, I did enjoy the fact that it was Elle investing in saving Marsh, rather than the other way around. Elle and Loisa Beladodia worked fearlessly together as a team and I very much got a Thelma and Louise vibe from their interactions. That said, the touch of spunky agent in Elle quickly moved charming to irritating. She constantly put herself in dangerous situations without really stopping to think them through and Schwarz always seemed to allow her a way out without any great consequence. Furthermore, we are told repeatedly that Elle is an all powerful oracle and yet she does little to nothing to learn about her powers, let alone learn how to harness them. This is an old trope in urban fantasy and each time it appears it makes little sense.
Despite how capable Elle is towards the end she still took to her bed for three months! Yes, losing someone is awful and A Clockwork Heart has a very tragic ending but I've had about enough of grown women taking to their bed. It would have been capable to show Elle's sadness and her pain without Elle removing herself from the world so entirely. It felt completely indulgent.
I know that a lot of readers are not happy with the ending of A Clockwork Heart but it was a nice twist to not have the happily after ending that has become common. The one Schwarz chose left room for the upcoming third book and at the same time granted room for Elle to grow, learn and act independently of the ever so oppressive Marsh. Many authors are loathed to break a couple simply because readers invest in them and this decision took courage on the part of Schwarz and left me as a reader, hopeful that Elle, the protagonist, will morph into someone of maturity.
The most intriguing character in this book is Jack the fae. From the moment we are introduced to him, we know that he is trouble. Clearly Jack is going to be a character that grows in the series and that can only mean good things. I have found the dealings with the Consortium to be hard to follow and rather uninteresting whereas Jack while still a mystery to readers is far easier to understand as an antagonist or at least a thorn in the side of Elle.
For lovers of steampunk, A Clockwork Heart had a lot to offer. Schwarz took great care to not only describe the terrifying automatons but a plethora of devices. She also did a great job giving a sense of the time period. Elle having to spend time in jail with the suffragettes for instance, not only gave us historical context, it reminded the reader of how simply extraordinary Elle really is. If only pace did not feel so slow and jumbled.
I did enjoy following this series and I will most definitely read the the third book but it will be with tempered expectations. The world setting Schwarz has created is truly marvelous but problems with pacing and characterization really dulled my enjoyment of this book.
Editors Note: A copy of this book was received from Netgalley