[Review] Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher

Author: T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon)
Price: USD 4.99 e-book, USD 24.95 hardcover
ISBN10: 1614504067
ISBN13: 9781614504061

TL;DR: A quick escape from the mundanity of life with a dose of laughter and fantasy made unusual.

Disclaimer: I may get a small commission from the Book Depository links.

A ninja accountant, a smoking assassin, a paladin with a dead demon, and a misogynistic, impressionable genius teen scholar set out on a suicide mission. They stand a higher likelihood of killing each other before the mission gets them, and that’s before they leave the city.

Clockwork Boys is a delightful read. It is also my first Ursula Vernon (writing as T. Kingfisher) story, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. According to most reviews, this book is a little darker than her regular stuff, but to me after reading so many doomsday books and articles in 2017, her words are a refreshing breath in 2018.

The characters are really what make Clockwork Boys come alive. Slate, the main character is a resigned 30-year old forger who, according to her own description, is nondescript. She has an inconvenient magical gift tied to her nose, and a gift for staying alive. Also I have not seen anyone do nose-related magic well and Ursula nails it here.

Caliban is great as the paladin with a hole in his soul and a demon on his mind. He’s a very pretty paladin (as is noted by other readers) and I like that in addition to his brooding, he can be rather dumb yet smart. His struggle with his faith was something I did not expect to resonate with me, but his resolution was certainly… interesting.

Brenner, whom I will call the transactional assassin, is really good at killing and very practical. For a practical assassin though, I am surprised to find that he smokes; I didn’t think an assassin would give themselves away with that habit but maybe it works a little differently in that world, who knows?

Rounding up the group is nineteen year old Learned Edmund, who is the healer and kid who thinks women will jump on him the moment they get the chance to. Also hello misogyny. It’s a very good take on specialisation and incredible nitpicking.

I love the chemistry and I love what happens in this story, and I cannot wait for the sequel. That said, I have a lot of questions after reading this book.

The worldbuilding feels somewhat haphazard. We’re given glimpses but it feels a bit like what I’d expect to read in a summary of a dungeonmaster’s setting. Some things happen in the book that make me go “bwuh?” particularly where geography is concerned but I’m hoping that the Wonder Machine will fill in the blanks.

Summary? This book makes a great reward for completing small but unpleasant tasks. It is also very hard to put down, so don’t make my mistake and read it before bed. Do it after dinner instead.


We survived 2017!

This post should be published on January 1, 2018, and with that I’d like to say…


2017 was a shit year for many of us. It was a great year for many of us too. But if you work in the creative lines, it can feel a bit depressing because there’s just a lot of bad and worse news.

However, we made it this far. We are still alive this day in 2018, and though things may feel the same, they also feel a little different (I hope).

That said, 2017 was a detox year for me. I left a toxic environment behind, started at a new place, began buying books again (though admittedly I have yet to start reading again), wrote fiction for myself, wrote fiction as an experiment again, and ended my beef with ~Samseng~ Samsung phones (hello Note FE).

I’m writing this as a reminder of the things I experienced in 2017. You can consider this a bragging list and so if you want, you can stop reading right here.

So, my year went something like this:

  • January – took my first official business trip down to Singapore. Didn’t quite work out, I left the job a month later but it was a fun trip.
  • February – I found a new job and began the resignation process. It was a long time coming and not a few people were unsurprised.
  • March – My first speaking arrangement! I was invited to be a speaker at the All-In Young Writers Festival in Singapore. It was my first time moderating a panel AND meeting most of the Singaporean Pulp Toast team.
  • April – started at new job. Working hours were killer but it seemed my boss liked most of what I was doing. The slightly slower pace seemed really weird after doing multiple tasks for many different brands.
  • June – I lent a friend of an acquaintance my two typewriters. They were exhibited and it was glorious.
  • July – I went to CAFKL and gotloot. Quite a few of them are on display, but most are in storage for when I actually move to a new place. Also did the whole Bullet Journal thing. It turned out much more productive and efficient at clarifying my thoughts. This was also a hectic time at work cause my boss used it as a test run for another event in November.
  • August – Company trip to Bali! It was fun but I didn’t have as much time as I wanted for introspection. Also towards the end of the month I had a horrible viral fever that ended with rashes for a week.
  • September – took my car on her first multi-hour road trip out of state. She handled it far better than I expected and bonus? Mom liked driving her too.
  • October – Celebrated friend getting registered for marriage and had awesome food. Also wrote a long rant on the personal blog for a game I play. xD This was also the month I bought a new phone.
  • November – Completed Nanowrimo yay! It’s just 50,116 words, probably about 80% of which I will discard, but the process was essential to reassuring myself that I can still write and imagine fiction if I want to. Now to continue it for the upcoming year. Achievement as well: I consistently was able to write at least 400-600 words per session with the stylus if I wanted. The only drawback were sore hands. xD
  • December – Ho gods the final stretch. We’re this close to saying goodbye to the year. Friends got married, social links were re-established, I went on a 3-night trip with mom and we didn’t kill each other, and work is DONE for the year. Wow.

Compared to the last few years, this is the first time in a long time I’ve felt that the year change will be less of just another day and more of time is taking its breath in a long time. Is it a change of eras? Who knows?

I hope your 2018 will be kind and wonderful. For now though, let’s celebrate that WE SURVIVED 2017!

_Inspiration for this post came from Ursula Vernon aka the Wombat Test Subject. PS: Frozen penguin pic from Flickr here.