The short synopsis of Heavy Fire is: Two diplomats and their bodyguards, caught in the first crossfire of both a civil and planned multi-national war, have to escape assassination, find allies, and find a way to prevent their home country from being dismantled from within. But the novel is so much more than that.
I’m not sure I would have picked up Clockwork Heart (the first in this series) if I hadn’t had the opportunity to read it when it was still a NaNovel (a novel written for National Novel Writing Month); the publishers’ descriptions haven’t, in my opinion, given any of the series the depth and occasional grandeur they deserve. However, since I did have the opportunity, I’ve eagerly awaited each new installment as they’ve arrived. Heavy Fire is the final book in the Clockwork Heart series, and it lives up to the promise of its predecessors.
Taya Icarus (a courier trained to fly on Ondinium wings), and her husband Exalted Forlore (Cris), with the assistance of the Demician-descended lictor Janos Amcathra, have survived attempted murder, assassination attempts, and a fairly nasty train wreck. Their latest diplomatic assignment is to try and create peace between Ondinium (their home) and Alzana; a matter complicated by the fact that Ondinium and Alzana have never been particularly peaceful in their relations. Oh, and the (spoiler, highlight to read and I hope this works) Airship attack on Ondinium by Alzanan forces hasn’t helped matters at all.Even if el Rey does insist he had nothing to do with it.
Things only go downhill from there.
Pagliassotti has a hugely inventive world with many cultures, from the Ondinium preference for order, enforced by the council via The Great Engine (a computer, made of Ondinium the metal) to the Cabisi Thessalocracy and their method of governance by dueling (it’s more complicated than that, but again: spoilers). In the end, though, Taya and Cris are the heart of the story, and the greatest pleasure in the book is, in my opinion, watching the two of them be incredibly human in the middle of the terrible circumstances of war. Suffering stress, fighting as married couples are wont to do, misunderstanding each other, longing to protect the other, hating to be treated as something fragile and vulnerable. The heart may be made of clockwork, but it certainly isn’t regular as nor mechanical as.
I can pretty much promise, if you like steampunk, fantasy, romance, mystery, political novels, war, machines, war machines, and/or genuinely strong female protagonists you won’t regret it.
(A quick disclaimer, in two parts: First, the author is a RL friend of mine, and second, “Heavy Fire” is the proper title of this book and not “Clockwork Secrets” which was added for marketing reasons. However, I did NOT have the opportunity to read a draft of this novel as I did the first two books in the series, which is why I’m reviewing this one but didn’t those.)