Review: Wings of Sorrow and Bone by Beth Cato

Review: Wings of Sorrow and Bone by Beth CatoWings of Sorrow and Bone: A Clockwork Dagger Novella by Beth Cato
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook
Genres: fantasy, steampunk
Series: Clockwork Dagger #2.5
Pages: 96
Published by Harper Voyager Impulse on November 10th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

From the author of The Clockwork Dagger comes an exciting novella set in the same world…
After being rescued by Octavia Leander from the slums of Caskentia, Rivka Stout is adjusting to her new life in Tamarania. But it’s hard for a blossoming machinist like herself to fit in with proper society, and she’d much rather be tinkering with her tools than at a hoity-toity party any day.
When Rivka stumbles into a laboratory run by the powerful Balthazar Cody, she also discovers a sinister plot involving chimera gremlins and the violent Arena game Warriors. The innocent creatures will end up hurt, or worse, if Rivka doesn’t find a way to stop Mr. Cody. And to do that means she will have to rely on some unexpected new friends.

My Review:

clockwork crown by beth catoI absolutely adored the Clockwork Dagger duology. The second book of the pair, The Clockwork Crown, is a contender for my best of the year list. The only reason that both books aren’t on the list is that The Clockwork Dagger was published in 2014, but I was late to the party.

If you like steampunk and skullduggery mixed with your magic and fantasy, this series is awesome.

So when I saw this postquel (that needs to be a word) listed on Edelweiss, I was all in. I call it a postquel because it isn’t a sequel. Wings of Sorrow and Bone isn’t a whole separate take on this world. Instead it’s more of a tying up of a loose end from the original story.

That being said, this could still serve as an introduction, or more likely a taste-whetter, for the series as a whole. The main characters in Wings were introduced in the main sequence, but not featured. This is sort of a what happens after because of the consequences of the main story. Of course, it has more depth if you’ve read Dagger and Crown. And why wouldn’t you? They are, as I said, positively awesome.

Wings of Sorrow and Bone takes place in Tamarania, the rich and sophisticated country that has managed to sit outside the long and devastating war between Caskentia and the Dallowmen. There are two links between Wings and the main series. One is Viola Stout, who traveled as Medician Octavia Leander’s companion during the main series. Viola is also the secret heir to the disputed Caskentian throne, and has hidden her identity her entire life. With her recently discovered granddaughter, Rivka Stout, Viola is now living safely in Tamarania, and trying to turn her street-urchin granddaughter into a lady.

clockwork dagger by beth catoAll Rivka wants is to be a machinist. She has a way with machines, and absolutely no facility for noble small talk or feminine frippery. Escaping from a dull society partner and her grandmother’s watchful eye, Rivka finds herself in the company Tatiana Garret. Tatiana is the younger sister of Alonzo Garret, the hero of Dagger and Crown. Alonzo is assisting the great medician Octavia Leander as she runs for her life. He’s also fallen in love with her.

And his selfish little sister is absolutely pissed that she isn’t getting enough of his attention. So she kidnaps Leander and ships her back to Caskentia as freight. Garret follows on a stolen mecha warrior, and that story barrels towards its conclusion.

But Tatiana is still in Tamarania, still feeling put upon, and the owner and trainer of the mecha her brother stole is still angry at the loss of his property. Tatiana is still looking for a way to get her own way in something. Rivka just wants to escape the party.

Together the young women find themselves in the mecha laboratory, watching as living animals, adorably ugly little gremlins. are experimented upon and having their parts amputated in order for the owner of the Arena to build a newer, bigger and even more deadly gremlin/mecha warrior to replace the one that Alonzo Garret stole.

All Tatiana seems to see is a way to be the center of everyone’s attention, by becoming the first female mecha rider.

All Rivka sees is a whole laboratory full of living, breathing, feeling, intelligent little animals, who are being sadistically tortured in order to create an even bigger, more intelligent and more feeling gremlin/mecha hybrid, one whose only fate is to die in that Arena.

But not if Rivka, with some surprising help from Tatiana, can find a way to bring it all down, and soon.

Escape Rating B+: This story is short, but packs a satisfying wallop at the end. However, there’s a bit of a stutter in the middle.

The plot that Rivka hatches, with the help of her grandmother Viola and the reluctant assistance of Tatiana, is actually quite clever. Stealing a mecha is not the answer. As the story makes all too clear, Alonzo Garret’s theft of the one gremlin/mecha warrior has only induced the Arena owner Cody, and all of his competitors, to make larger and more dangerous mecha constructs. And the bigger the mecha, the more little gremlins have to be sacrificed to provide the parts.

Rivka wants to save all the gremlins, the little ones who have lost their limbs or wings, and the great big one who is being trained to be a killer. She can’t steal them all, and she can’t buy them all. Her answer to the problem is ingenious. And successful.

It’s her use of Tatiana as an ally, and Tatiana’s very deliberate use of Rivka, that gave me fits. I like Rivka a lot. She’s self-sufficient and smart, and learned to survive in a school of very hard knocks. She loves her grandmother but just doesn’t know how to be the person her grandmother wants her to be. And she’s an absolutely brilliant mechanist.

Tatiana is a selfish little user throughout the story. As she was in Clockwork Crown. Tatiana is all about Tatiana, and she doesn’t care who she steps on or steps over as long as she gets her way. Where Rivka is a likeable protagonist, Tatiana is absolutely not. That Rivka and her grandmother get Tatiana on board with their plan is amazing. That they do it by creating a role that feeds her narcissism was necessary but still left me wanting to slap Tatiana upside the head with a clue-by-four.

And the ending of Wings of Sorrow and Bone still brought a smile to my face.

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