Review: Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin (Gunpowder Chronicles #2)


Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin // VBC ReviewClockwork Samurai
(Gunpowder Chronicles #2)
Jeannie Lin
Published: Dec. 1, 2015 (InterMix)
Purchase: Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Margaret

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Note: While review will be spoiler free, it does make reference to previous books in the series.

Clockwork Samurai picks up about a year after the end of Gunpowder Alchemy. Jin Soling has been working as a physician to the imperial harem. She’ll never fully trust the government that executed her father so she tries to keep a low profile, avoiding gossip and court politics. But the emperor begins to seek her out and the concubines take notice. When she sees the emperor using opium, she’s even more determined to keep her distance. Still she can’t help but worry about the rebels encroaching on the capital city or the foreigners whose ships surround the ports.

Soling’s one time fiancé and current would-be love interest Chen Chang-wei, meanwhile, continues his work for the Ministry of Engineering. The two rarely see each other and so have had little opportunity to pursue the relationship that began in book one. A chance encounter at court shows Soling that Chen is following in her father’s footsteps, proposing an alliance with Japan in order to develop Western weaponry. She’s surprised when the government actually supports his plan and sends him on a mission to Japan. She’s even more surprised when she gets sent along with him.

What’s so interesting to me about this series is that it’s set at roughly the same time as many of my favorite steampunk series, and yet it feels completely different. Politics play a major role in the plot, and the Chinese isolationist/anti-Western attitude is such a change from other stories, which are mostly set in London. The sentiments they encounter in Japan are much the same and really emphasized the story’s “Eastern-ness” for me.

It does still have some of my favorite steampunk elements, like the ubiquitous (but still awesome) airships and some fun new gadgets. Soling has a clockwork apothecary cabinet that I absolutely loved. On the journey, she encounters everything from a mechanical tea service to the clockwork samurai, whose appearance was actually quite a surprise.

Clockwork Samurai also has some great action scenes and more romance than Gunpowder Alchemy, though it’s still a small part of the story. It also features a more mature Soling, which I liked. I still don’t completely trust her relationship with Chen, though I don’t think Soling does either. He such an idealist that he doesn’t seem to realize he’s going down the same road that led her father to his death. And it’s not always clear why he wants Soling along on that journey. Where they’re headed next is a mystery, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Sexual content: kissing

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