Wednesday, 24 September 2008
‘The Clockwork King of Orl’ – Mike Wild (Abaddon Books)
The books I’ve been reading lately have either been serious in tone or just seriously bad! Some of them have felt like a chore to get through and I realised that I needed something a little lighter to read next, something that would put a little spark and enjoyment back into my reading.
Despite the odd blip here and there, Abaddon can generally be relied upon to come up with a decent read that’s fun and full of life (or ‘un-life’ if you take their ‘Tomes of the Dead’ series into account). With this in mind I picked up ‘The Clockwork King of Orl’, second book in Abaddon’s ‘Twilight of Kerberos’ series. It wasn’t a perfect read but it did just what I wanted it to...
In any fantasy setting that you come across there are always remnants of the ancient civilisations that came before humankind. You can safely bet money on these ancient ruins teeming with adventurers looking for buried treasure and that is the premise that ‘The Clockwork King of Orl’ hangs upon.
Kali Hooper makes her living searching the ruins of Twilight for whatever she can sell as well as trying to discover what happened to the vanished Old Races. Events take a turn that’s even worse than normal when a chance encounter in the Spiral of Kos sends her in search of the keys that will unlock the legendary Clockwork King of Orl. If Kali doesn’t get to the keys first then the all consuming Final Faith will and Kali’s visions of fire and blood will become a reality...
‘The Clockwork King of Orl’ builds upon the world of Twilight, already established in ‘Shadowmage’, and opens it up with history, current affairs and a promise of a future that may be dark for it’s inhabitants but will certainly be interesting to read about. The world itself is nothing new to anyone who’s been reading fantasy for any length of time; it’s a world of Thieve’s Guilds, assassins and secretive old mentors that I’ve certainly read about on more than one occasion. Where Twilight redeems itself though is the spiky attitude of its residents. They’re doing all the things you would normally expect a ‘dweller in fantasy land’ to do but they do it with a bit of bite behind what they say to each other. ‘The Clockwork King of Orl’ isn’t up to the same standard of ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ but it’s got that same attitude which kept me interested in the characters and what they were up to.
Abaddon’s ‘Arrowhead’ intentionally borrowed from the Robin Hood mythos and ‘The Clockwork King’ employs a similar approach by modelling parts of its story on the Indiana Jones films. This is a book of hidden ruins in dangerous climes; treasures of great portent and characters that you know are only there to die in a horrible way so that hero can find their way past a trap.
‘The Clockwork King’ is just as much fun as Indiana Jones, in this respect, with plenty going on and an assortment of dead-ends and impossible situations that Kali escapes from in spectacular fashion. There’s so much of this though that sometimes it comes across as all being a little too easy for Kali, especially when we find that she’s developing special powers that will enable her to fulfil a ‘great destiny’... This works (up to a point) in terms of building up stuff for future books but comes across here as a bit of a ‘get out of jail free’ card...
What works in a film may not come across quite so well on the page and this is also an area where ‘The Clockwork King’ falls down slightly. Finding secret tunnels/entrances etc can be quite a tense affair, on the big screen, but if it’s not done properly then that sense of excitement can swiftly vanish in a book. ‘The Clockwork King’ definitely suffers in this regard as certain passages felt like they were plodding, rather than racing, which interrupted an otherwise well paced book.
Despite all this, ‘The Clockwork King’ is one of those fun reads that definitely helped me get through some of the more negative parts of my daily commute over the last couple of days. The fact that I was able to easily put it to one side, when I got to work, shouldn’t detract from the fact that it does what it sets out to do. ‘The Clockwork King’ won’t win any awards but I did have fun reading it and I would read more of the same. You can’t ask for a lot more than that, can you?
Seven and a Half out of Ten.