This novel didn’t really work for me, although it has an intriguing premise. Time can change. It can Stop. It can jump without continuity. The only things that keep the time from hiccuping are the magical clock towers. Each clock tower has an area of influence, usually a town and surrounding area, which together constitute a time zone. Built hundreds of years ago all over the world by unknown magical artisans, the towers are an enigma for most regular people.
The secrets of their construction were lost centuries ago. Nobody knows now how to build new towers anymore, and only magical clock mechanics, gifted with the magical sense of time, are able to repair them. They keep the towers running and prevent the time from Stopping.
Danny, the seventeen-year-old hero of this book, as a clock mechanic. He is thrust into the middle of the story, together with the readers: someone has been sabotaging clock towers around England, time has been acting up, and nobody knows the culprit. Danny’s father was one of the casualties. Three years ago, he was trapped in a town where the time Stopped. Nobody could get in or out of Stopped towns, and Danny still mourns his father. Danny himself was a victim of a bombing of one of the clock towers. He survived, but he still bear scars, physical and mental, and he is determined to figure out who is responsible for what is happening to the clock towers of England.
The story follows Danny through a series of harrowing adventures, blending several genres together. It should’ve been irresistible, but in fact, it drags. I think the author tried to combine too many genres inside one book.
There is the obvious fantasy angle – magical clock towers in the alternative Victorian England – which attracted me to the book in the first place. Then, there is a mystery inside the fantasy. The author follows the rules of the mystery genre and throws lots of red herrings into Danny’s investigation of the clock towers accidents.
I don’t like mystery genre very much. For me, a fantasy reader, the red herrings felt like an unfocused story. A bunch of characters who were not important to the main plot. A bunch of event that convoluted the logic and didn’t have any impact on the ultimate conclusion of Danny’s journey. I got so bored with the story meandering, I started skipping after the first 100 pages or so. Until I got to the last 80 pages, which I read in full. Strangely enough, I didn’t miss much by skipping over more than 100 middle pages. The story was clear, and I read it to the conclusion without wondering what happened in between.
Another genre convention that even worsened my impression of this novel was its YA approach. The protagonist, a seventeen-year-old gay boy, is chock full of teenage angst. He is unpleasant, unfriendly, and cares mostly about himself, like most teenagers I know. I’m not enamored of this genre and I disliked the protagonist. No, this novel didn’t work for me.