Chainbreaker

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Timekeeper. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Chainbreaker was written by Tara Sim and first published in 2018. It is the second novel of the Timekeeper series and follows on shortly after Timekeeper (2016) left off, with Danny having embraced his calling as Enfield’s resident mechanic. A third instalment – Firestarter – is planned for release at the end of this year.

Danny Hart is the happiest that he has been in years. His father has been rescued and his relationship with his mother has been restored. Better still, he now lives in Enfield and so is able to spend every day in the clock tower with Colton. The danger of the previous few months seems to finally be far behind them. That is, until a clock tower in India is bombed.

Although the tower is completely destroyed, miraculously time continues to flow in the surrounding area. The guild leader expresses a desire for Danny and Daphne to travel to India to investigate, but Danny is at first reluctant to do so. He has heard that rioting in India makes it dangerous for an Englishman to travel there and he is concerned what Colton would do if anything were to happen to him.

Yet, as a second tower is destroyed, Danny realises that he has no choice if he wishes to learn what is happening and protect the clock spirits from harm. As Danny begins to investigate the ruins, he soon learns that the terrorist attacks are simply a reaction to British rule. Meanwhile, back in England, Colton has begun to dream of a mysterious youth named Castor. As his visions grow more vivid, he begins to uncover more about the history of the clock towers and the dark secrets that they hold…

Timekeeper has long been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. While I acknowledge that the novel is by no means perfect, it did draw me in with its unique concept and lovable characters, and I do find myself frequently recommending it to both fans of steampunk and people in search of books with LGBT protagonists. However, I’m pleased to say that Chainbreaker is a far stronger novel than its predecessor.

While Timekeeper’s core concept – a world where clock towers control the flow of time – was massively original, I found its scope to be just a little too small. Its focus was primarily on Danny’s forbidden relationship with Colton and the hints of political trouble just simmered in the background. However, these do start to play a much bigger role in Chainbreaker. The plot this time around feels a lot grander, dramatically widening the scope of the tale as the setting relocates to a country on the verge of revolution. While Matthias’s terrorist actions in the first book felt isolated, here they take on a deeper threat as tensions are rapidly mounting between the occupying British forces and the Indian people, who are being made to feel like second class citizens in their own country.

The most fascinating thing about Chainbreaker is that it is a novel about shades of grey. Early in the novel, Danny’s father tries to impress upon him the importance of putting the needs of the many first, however Danny quickly comes to realise that real life is not that simple. The attitude of the British soldiers towards the Indian people is horrifying, yet the violent riots that the Indian people resort to only lead to more violence. It is an impossible situation where the villains are not necessarily evil people, but often feel forced to do unforgivable things. I personally found this to be both realistic and utterly compelling.

The story also does more to expand on the mythology of Sim’s world. While this was touched upon in Timekeeper, Colton’s dreams allow the reader to learn more about the moment in history when time first began to decay, as well as how the first clock towers came to be. This rich history, loosely styled around Greek mythology, served to put things into perspective and began to give me hope that perhaps there would be some kind of loop hole that would allow Danny and Colton their happily ever after.

However, the novel still was not without its issues. Despite the wider scope of the tale, the story was still a little slow moving and felt simplistic on the whole. While the book was certainly never boring and did keep my attention throughout, its twists did not seem to be greatly integrated. I don’t want to spoil the story for you any more here, but I personally felt that they were either too well signposted or came entirely out of left field, unfortunately failing to strike the middle ground that would make them feel impressive.

Despite the constant threat of violence and riots, it was not until the final 20% of the story that the plot really started to pick up. As Danny found himself at the mercy of the group that had been threatening him since the final page of Timekeeper, it quickly became a frantic race against the clock to stop a second bloody rebellion from occurring. While the climax was utterly gripping, I was disappointed to find that it was cut short by a wicked cliffhanger. Yes, you’re probably tired of hearing me rant about these now but my view hasn’t changed. I really do not like it when novels end at a point where they feel incomplete. Chainbreaker ended leaving a lot of plot threads hanging, including whether or not a certain major character is still alive.

In terms of character, Chainbreaker is incredibly strong. While I did think that its secondary cast was perhaps a little too large, the core characters felt as though they had been thoroughly fleshed out. Danny and Colton’s relationship is still central to the story and as sweet as ever. Although the two of them are separated for a large portion of the novel, which could disappoint fans of their gradual romance from last time, it did give ample opportunity to explore each of them individually. I personally felt that this was a great idea and Colton benefited from it in particular. Without having Danny around to care for him, Colton had the opportunity to stand on his own as well as discover a lot more about his origins.

I was also pleased that Daphne got a lot more to do in this book. Her plot is largely centred around discovering more about her heritage as she gradually builds a relationship with an Indian pilot named Akash. While I was glad that she finally got fleshed out, I was left disappointed by how her involvement in the plot peters out towards the end of the story. It’s a shame that she was largely left out of the climax, as it really felt as though she ran out of things to do in the final act.

All in all, I do think that this series is on the up. While the cliffhanger in particular did frustrate me, I loved the way that Sim developed the concepts and characters introduced in Timekeeper. I am very excited to see how this trilogy is going to conclude.

Chainbreaker can be purchased as a Hardback, eBook or Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Sobeks 2018 – Part 1 | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: Firestarter | Arkham Reviews

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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