Escapement by Jay Lake
Review by Jasper de Joode
Her Imperial Majesty Queen Victoria still rules New England and her American Possessions; The Royal Navy rules the skies with their mighty airships; and earth still turns on God’s great brass gears of Heaven.
Paolina Barthes has grown up in a tiny village on Wall inhabited by the descendants of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors, isolated from the rest of the world. Yet she is a genius, another Newton, a natural sorcerer in this Universe of God’s Clockwork. And when a boy who survived the wreck of the airship Bassett shows here a pocket watch, it opens her brilliant mind to a world of possibilities. She builds a device that even she barely understands, but which can change or rebuild the entire world”
When I first asked to review Mainspring and Escapement I thought they were part of an ongoing series (which they are) and needed to be read in order (which is necessarily the case). The world that Jay Lake envisions in Mainspring is used once again in Escapement but the book can be read as a stand alone novel, although I would recommend reading Mainspring first to avoid missing any information at all.
Escapement picks up 2 years after Mainspring ended and it was nice to see that there was an direct influence of an accident from Mainspring that was the main drive in Escapement. In Escapement the storyline follows the adventures of three people: Paolina, a smart kid termed Newton-like intelligent; Al-Wazir, a former rope commander on the airship The Bassett and Childress, the librarian that send Hethor (in Mainspring) on his adventure to find the Key Perilous. The three storylines run separately at the beginning of the book but become intertwined at the end. Lake manages to get the dialogue of his characters just right (be they Chinese, Scot, German or English) and it made me feel like I was right there next to them. The background of the characters and countries from which they came really added depth to the book, and this was an improvement upon Mainspring, where Hethor was the only character with a goal.
In Escapement Paolina discovers a machine that she terms the Gleam, a machine which had tremendous powers and that can be used for either good or bad. Jay Lake mentioned the Chinese sparingly in Mainspring but in Escapement their factions and their goals are explored in greater detail. The major factions, the British and the Chinese are at war with each other, separated by the Wall. Within both the British and the Chinese empires are followers of the avebianco and The Silent Order, both of which want to capture Paolina and her power of Gleam. With the elaboration on the factions and the avebianco and The Silent Order there is more interest and intrigue (it gets really political) in Escapement than there was in Mainspring.
Escapement is a good addition to the Mainspring Universe created by Jay Lake in his first novel Mainspring. He continues with its world building and the elaboration on certain events and the factions from Mainspring makes some pieces of the puzzle come together. Escapement has a good plot and solid – and occasionally funny – characters. I recommend it highly.
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