Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: Legacy of the Clockwork Key (Secret Order of Modern Amusmentists#1)

Legacy of the Clockwork Key (The Secret Order, #1)Author: Kristin Bailey
Series: The Secret Order, #1
Release date: March 5th 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Hardcover, 403 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

As a steampunk reader, I can be nitpicky and entirely too difficult to please. However, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say that Legacy of the Clockwork Key fell short of what I had expected. For starters, it read more like Middle Grade than Young Adult and was, in many ways, far too naïve and oversimplified for my liking. In truth, I’m not sure it can even be classified as steampunk; it certainly started as one, and the author approached it very ambitiously, but the execution was lacking and the end result was a Middle Grade-ish book with lots of metal in it.

In Legacy of the Clockwork Key, Meg and her small group of new acquaintances, embark on a quest to find and destroy a dangerous device created by a secret society Meg’s family was involved with. To find the location of this device, they must find and unlock clue after clue using a creative master key Meg’s grandfather left her.

I was quite enjoying this story until things turned serious between Meg and Will. It was their relationship – Meg’s constant doubts and insecurities, Will’s inconsistent behavior and lack of any real spark between them – that really turned me off. I understood why Meg would be attracted to Will, even with all his brooding and silent treatments. His attraction for her, however, made little sense as he was right to accuse her of selfishness and pigheadedness.

I was hardly one to command the attention of a man, especially sitting next to the gilded beauty Lucinda possessed. Will couldn’t possibly fancy me, so why did he watch me so intently? I’ll admit, I had noticed he was handsome when I first met him. At the time, it might have only been my shock at seeing someone my own age.

But as difficult as the characters were, I had even more trouble with the inventions. Although there were many (I get grumpy when there isn’t enough machinery in my steampunk), and although the inventory was quite impressive (automatons, a metal Stonehenge that sprouted from the ground, a huge metal maze and a metal leviathan, to name a few), it was never explained how any of them actually worked. That, in my opinion, is simply not steampunk. And some of the minor inventions were just random modern things like night vision and infrared goggles. Those were only unusual because of the historical setting, and what’s worse, I can’t imagine they could possibly be steam powered… not that actual steam was ever mentioned.

In the end, I think it’s fair to conclude that Legacy of the Clockwork Key simply lacked steam, both between the characters and in their many inventions. It’s a good book for a younger audience; I’d probably have enjoyed it when I was twelve or thirteen, but as an older reader, I found it to be mediocre and entirely forgettable.


  1. Sorry this one fell short for you. I had been eyeing it up a lot recently, but I might give it a miss. I really don't wanna pick up anything that would be better suited to the middle grade at the moment. Thanks for a great, honest review. :)

  2. I tend to be quite picky with steampunk, too. There are so many ways to screw it up or minimize it -- I want to be fully immersed in a world that's both fantastical and believable (to a point, of course). Plus, I want at least a cursory explanation of how they work! It's a hard line to walk.

  3. Oh, I am sorry that you did not like this
    Well, I love reading steampunk , i wish i could read it someday, but it is just that none of the books in the genre attract me enough
    GREAT review, Maja
    Your reader,

  4. Meg and Will's negative relationship sounds like it would turn me off too. Sorry that you were enjoying until this came along.
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  5. That's too bad about this one... but honestly? I was totally under the impression that this WAS a Middle-Grade book! The steampunk genre is something I think requires a lot of imagination and I've found that there are many books these days where authors are trying to jump on that bandwagon and do a steampunk novel but it's ultimately lacking in execution. Looks like this one can into that category as well. Great review as usual. :)

  6. This is second not so great review I'm reading for this book. Well I can't say that I'm not disappointed as I expected it to be epic. There's this lovely cover and amazing blurb but it looks like I'll skip this one. I think that a lot of things that turned you off would do the same to me. *sigh* Great review Maja :)

  7. Reviews are so mixed on this, but the very reasons this fell short for you is exactly what would turn me off. I want gadgets, tons of gadgets and the fact that nothing was explained blows my mind..what fun is that?!? The character issues I could have handled, but not the world building issues. Thanks you for sharing your thoughts *scratches of wishlist*

  8. Inconsistent behavior from characters seems to be a common problem lately Maja! Perhaps part of it is due to the sheer number of books we bloggers read, we're constantly on the lookout for small things that excite us or frustrate us, and things that set a book apart from the myriad of other ones we've read before it. It's a shame this one read a bit young and none of the machinery was really explained, like you, I like my steampunk to have lots of gadgets, but I need to know what they do, not just what they are.

  9. I hear ya. I like lots of gadgets and gizmos in my steampunk as well. Luckily A Conspiracy of Alchemists my current read has lots of those. I know this book isn't well received so I am glad I didn't sign up to review it. I know Sam was struggling with it and then she didn't review it she posted an excerpt so I am guessing it was a rocky read for her as well. I appreciate the honest review as always, Maja.

  10. Ah too bad that it didn't work for you... not even on a mechanical level. Does not bode well for me enjoying it. Not liking the sound of the characters and that can make or break a book for me. :-/

  11. I love that pun - "lacked steam." ;) Seriously, though, I feel like that describes this book perfectly. I haven't read it myself, but from the majority of reviews, it seems like the romance is both lackluster and too overwhelming to the plot line. Plus, what's steampunk without good innovations and their explanations? Nothing, that's what. I'll definitely be skipping out on this, so thanks for the honest review, dear! :)

  12. Shame this one didn't live up to some of the hype that seems to be coming in. Although that generally seems to be the case these days.

    Disappointing that it sounds like its more for younger readers as that doesn't encourage me to read.

    The romance sounds not good, the quote definitely had me frowning. I can see myself getting frustrated with that kind of thinking.

    However I enjoyed your review and the comments about steam. Oddly I never thought about steampunk containing steam powered inventions, just winding clocks and turning cogs for some reason. Bizarre.

    Lovely honest review, Maja! :)

  13. I'm really picky with steampunk as well. So many books have disappointed me with shoddy mechanics and worldbuilding in the last year, I'm almost expecting it when I read a debut steampunk, or one by an author who is switching genres. "The end result was a Middle Grade-ish book with lots of metal in it" <--- Ok, this totally made me laugh...and then resolve to never read this. :-)

    Awesome review, Maja!

  14. Bummer. I was hoping it'd be a good one. Thanks. :)

  15. I sometimes like to read MG fantasies, so I'll keep in mind that this is more like a part-adventure part-mystery type of story. Based on what you shared, I think I could understand why you found this "lacked steam". Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I hope your next-read would delight you :)

  16. Honestly, I thought it was a MG book when I first saw the cover. It just gives off that vibe. I'm trying to stay away from the younger ages for awhile. Too bad it didn't work for you, but I don't think it would work for me either.

  17. I have only recently read a few steampunks and I agree, if it is goign to be called steampunk then it needs lots and lots of inventions and they need to be explained well!

  18. I love steampunk and have been eying this book. I read middle grade so going in knowing its younger feeling might make that aspect okay. But the others you mentioned sound like things that would bother me too. I'm not terribly nitpicky, but maybe I am a bit...

  19. This is the second negative review for this one I've seen. I think I'll pass on it. It sounds like the book Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Not in story but in the MG vs YA. If it's YA with YA characters it should read like YA not MG!

  20. Oh shoot! I loved the premise of this one when I first heard about it. The lack of chemistry and inconsistency of the characters is definitely a huge strike against the book. The lack of steampunk doesn't bother me too much since I'm still a newbie in the genre. I think I'll put this one on my maybe list and see what other people thought about it. Thanks for your honest review!

  21. Oh darn. I was afraid that this was happen: it always seems to happen that the YA speculative fiction books with synopses too good to seem true often end up disappointing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'll be taking this into consideration as I wonder whether or not to have this one remain on my wishlist.


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