I bought The Girl and the Clockwork Cat, by Nikki McCormack, during the charity auction at NorWesCon 39, without knowing anything about the book. I simply liked the title. I like steampunk, and any book with “clockwork” in the title is usually steampunk.
Maeko is a half-Japanese teenage urchin, and thief, in Victorian London. While burglarizing a clock shop one night, with the assistance of her friend Chaff, Maeko finds a locked cabinet marked “The Proper Professor’s Companion from Clockwork Enterprises”. While she’s breaking open the cabinet, she sets off a silent alarm, and the police arrive. These are not the standard Bobbies, who are easily outrun. They are Literati police on steamcycles.
While hiding out in a rubbish bin, Maeko finds an unusual cat. Its left rear leg and hip are a complex machinery of metal gears and pulleys.
Maeko soon finds herself in the middle of conspiracy and murder. She must use her best streetwise instincts as she confronts Literati, private detectives, pirates, criminals, and her own past. It all seems tied to that clockwork cat.
And, on top of everything else, Maeko has boy troubles. There’s Ash, at the center of the murder investigation, who obviously has eyes for her. And there’s her mentor and friend (and possibly more?), Chaff.
The Girl and the Clockwork Cat contains all of the classic steampunk elements: clockwork machinery, steam power, inventors, strong female characters, and airships, in an alternate Victorian age. It mixes in some teenage angst and a murder mystery. Yet, all the wondrous steampunk technology serves as a backdrop to a realistic, rarely-pleasant, life of a young girl living on the streets.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s full of adventures and interesting details.
The ending felt rather open-ended to me. It doesn’t say that it’s the start of a series. Perhaps it’s setting up for a sequel. (Hey, what do you know? There is a sequel – The Girl and the Clockwork Conspiracy – and a second sequel coming out in September.)
- A science-fiction novel