After June Stefanov’s grandfather gave her a small relic as a child, her insatiable curiosity led to a career in anthropology and a job hunting down antique automatons. But a secret within a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll throws June into a world of highly sophisticated mechanical beings, living and fighting among humans. Cut to 1725 Russia, where newly born mechanical beings Peter and Elena struggle to serve their empire and the tsar, and find their own kind and purpose.

Billed as a scifi steampunk historical thriller, The Clockwork Dynasty is suspenseful action-packed speculative fiction about ancient robots living in a world less sophisticated than themselves. With elements of Interview of the Vampire and Highlander, Peter and Elana live to fulfill their Words, justice and logic, respectively, but they know nothing of their origins or the meaning of their existence. Their characters are immensely intriguing, flawed by their own programming, and achieves that aim of great science fiction—an examination of consciousness and what it means to be alive.

Unfortunately, June herself is more difficult to empathize with, as her desires and limitations are unclear, even for a human. Regardless, the chapter by chapter point-of-view and time shifts are expertly executed, enhancing the story with both timely exposition and an escalating pace until the past and present collide. All the technical elements are pulled off seamlessly, rendering a new story from old threads that feels young again.

Recommended for anyone who loves robots and action-packed science fiction!

Thanks to Netgalley and Double Day books for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

“Part of the man’s scalp peels away, sickeningly easy, taking his forehead and upper cheek with it. I can’t comprehend the sight. Beneath the skin, I see a skull shape of translucent blue plastic. When he blinks, only the remaining eyelid closes. The other eye is wide and round and staring, without the skin of an eyelid around it. I drop the shotgun clattering to the pavement.”