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.