is a more ambitious, and, in many ways, a more complex book than its predecessor, Mainspring
. Though both books are clever combinations of steampunk (SF elements translated to the Victorian era), alternate history, and fantasy, Lake hits his stride here, neatly balancing intriguing characters with the sort of clear, driving plot (and a few important subplots) and world building that keeps readers in the game. Lake’s star is on the rise in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and critics believe that this book is strong enough to warrant consideration for a Hugo. A cliffhanger ending almost certainly ensures another book in this remarkable cycle.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Paolina Barthes, raised in a village on the Wall in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, wants to escape the small-minded confines of her elders. Thanks to a ship’s boy and the few books in town, she knows England rules much of the world and believes that there she’ll find wizards like Newton to teach her more of the world’s working. An arduous journey ensues, only to the conclusion that her genius is too great for the politics of England and the peril of secret societies wanting to harness her power. Meanwhile, the librarian Childress (from Lake’s Mainspring, 2007) is ordered aboard a ship that is attacked by the Chinese. By coincidence, she is the sole survivor and to survive takes on a high-ranking role among her captors. The other side of the Wall continues a point of contention, but fortunately for Paolina, not everyone is obsessed with power to the exclusion of all else. With its airships, submarines, world-spanning gears, and fantastic creatures, Lake’s clockwork world continues to be a fantastic place to visit. --Regina Schroeder