An Interesting Lady

I asked Phillip if, in his opinion, a category called “A book about an interesting woman” is looking for a biography – or could it be a fictional character in a novel?

(I’m making my own rules for the Reading Challenge – there’s no prize, after all – but I want to do it right. I needed his input. I had a specific reason for asking that question.)

Without hesitation, he said it certainly could be a fictional woman. He pointed out that the category asks for just “a book”, and not any specific type of book. Then he pointed out that all biographies are about someone interesting. (I like that.)

Last year, at NorWesCon 39, I bought a book named The Girl and the Clockwork Cat, by Nikki McCormack. I read it for the 2016 Reading Challenge – “A science-fiction novel”. I liked it a lot. My review is here. The protagonist, Maeko, is an interesting young woman.

Clockwork ConspiracyThis year, Phillip came home from NorWesCon 40 with the sequel. That’s what prompted my question about the category.

The Girl and the Clockwork Conspiracy, by Nikki McCormack, was published in 2015.

The story is, once again, set in a steampunk Victorian-era London. The steampunk elements play a larger part in the story than they did in Clockwork Cat.

Maeko is off the streets now, living in a luxury flat with Lucian Folesworth, the inventor who lost his family in the previous book. Maeko is taught to be a proper young lady, to act properly, and to dress properly. She can’t go outside without a chaperon – that wouldn’t be proper. She has proper coming out of her ears. She misses her friend Chaff. Maeko is miserable, but she still has Macak, the clockwork cat, by her side.

(By the way, we, the readers, finally learn why that cat has a clockwork leg.)

Meanwhile, Detective Emeraude is investigating the murder of Police Commissioner Henderson. She tracks down Maeko and offers her an apprenticeship, and asks for her help with the investigation. Maeko is tempted but cautious. Em had, after all, arrested Chaff. Whose side is Em on?

Then Ash shows up, and Maeko’s life becomes truly complicated. Her feelings for him are still there, but she can’t show him those feelings. She’s a proper young lady now. And, what about Chaff? Should Maeko court Ash, or should she wait until her friendship with Chaff is sorted out? She’s in Ash’s world now, and no longer in Chaff’s – but where does she truly belong?

Has Maeko become too soft to return to the street life? After all, it’s difficult to fight like a man when you’re dressed like a lady. She used to sleep in abandoned buildings, the only girl in a room full of boys. Now she’s starting to think of boys in a different way.

Maeko will have to sort out these priorities if she is going to accept Detective Emeraude’s apprenticeship. And if Em’s theory is correct, and the powerful political group, the Literati, are involved, things could get quite dangerous.

But then a second murder occurs, one closer to home, and Maeko, the half-Japanese street urchin/proper lady/amateur detective/thief finds herself pushed into the middle of a much larger investigation.

The Girl and the Clockwork Conspiracy is the second book in a trilogy, or maybe an ongoing series (I don’t know). It starts right in with the story, with no recap of Clockwork Cat, and gives its readers reminders of the previous story here and there. It ends rather abruptly, even more open-ended than the first book. It’s not a complete story.

(The third book, The Girl and the Clockwork Cannonade, is scheduled to be published this year, according to the Elysium Books web site.)

I enjoyed The Girl and the Clockwork Conspiracy. It takes elements of young adult romance, science fiction, and hardboiled detective noir, and mashes them up into an interesting and original political thriller. And Maeko is an interesting protagonist.

  • A book about an interesting woman