Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim


“You’re everything. You’re … You’re chaos and order and everything between. Like sunshine kept back by clouds. Like the entire world’s imploded inside you, but all I see are the stars are sewn into your skin. You’re filled with soft, dark music. I hear it all the time. Your music.”

Tara Sim’s debut novel was a delightful, utterly unique tale with a steampunk twist. The story was magical, the characters sweethearts, and the writing simply eloquent. For my first steampunk novel, this was a treat!

In an alternate Victorian world where time is regulated by mechanical clock towers, Danny Hart, the youngest mechanic in history, is recovering from an accident that left with a severe case of PTSD. Even worse, his father has been stuck in a town where time Stopped for three years, and his mother is a shell of the person she used to be. Struggling to get back into the mechanic world, Danny is assigned to a small town called Enfield, where the local clock tower is plagued by minor problems.
Danny’s new assistant annoys and intrigues him, but the boy is eager to learn although he is distant. Danny soon learns Colton’s secret: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. While Colton and Danny are drawn together by lonliness, Danny knows that falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden. But, when a series of bombings threaten to Stop more cities, Danny and Colton must work together and find a way to stop Enfield from becoming the next target, or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves too.

Sim has created an incredible alternate Britain, which is slightly more technologically advanced than our own Victorian era: in Sim’s world, there are automobiles, motorcycles and airships. At the end of the novel, Sim has written a small explanation of the changes she has made for her world, including rights for women and acknowledgement of LGBT people. It’s so refreshing to read a fantasy novel where women and LGBT people are appreciated, and made the stars of the novel.

He was a boy of air and dust and sunlight. Everything that had gone into the making of the world.

I really enjoyed Danny as the protagonist and narrator. He was quite adorable, but strong too. The fact that he suffers from anxiety and PTSD is so important, because it forms a big part of his character and personality. He’s very loyal and courageous, and I love that he doesn’t go through a breakdown over his sexuality – he’s gay, that’s it, no dramas, this is normal. What I mean by this is that it feels as though every second YA LGBT novel focuses on the importance of ‘coming out’, and while those types of stories are incredibly significant, the constant use of this issue feels as though this is the only narrative LGBT people can have. I’m not saying that stories like that aren’t important – they totally are – but having characters that are confident in their sexuality is just as important, especially in YA books.

The same with issues surrounding women: it gets so dry to constantly read about women been subjugated by men and reading vile sexist language (looking at you SJM with your constant reaffirmation of males and females – please stop). In the novel, Danny’s best friend Cassie is a car mechanic, and an inventor who created the life-saving seatbelts! Her relationship with Danny is very loving and encouraging, as they both care and protect one another. One of the other female characters in Timekeeper who breaks expectations for women is Daphne, Danny’s work rival. Danny has a lot of respect for her, despite being his biggest rival – she is also half Indian and very proud of her heritage. While the novel is set in an alternate timeline, Sim has still included the horrors Britain subjected on India, as its important to remember the bad along with the good when it comes to history.

‘It would be something, being in another place.’
A spark of an idea caught tinder. ‘Where would you most like to go?’
‘I don’t know. I know nothing about the world. Enfield is my world.’
It was the saddest thing Danny had ever heard. ‘How about this: when I come next time, I’ll bring the world to you.’
Though he didn’t understand, Colton looked interested. ‘Is that possible?’
‘Anything is possible.’

Colon was an angel – an innocent time spirit angel. He is probably one of the sweetest characters I have come across in a very long time, and the reader can’t help but fall for him along with Danny. Colton has this incredible zest for life despite not being able to experience anything in his tower. He wants so much to live life to the fullest, but instead he spends his days watching over the people of Enfield and caring for them. The romance between Colton and Danny is intensely sweet and cute – that’s the best way to describe it. While forbidden, their love is not hot and heavy, nor is it too in your face: it’s tender, enchanting and oh so adorable. I love the way their romance developed because they’re two very lonely boys, who only desire a little love and gentleness in their lives, and this is how they bond. I pretty much had tears in my eyes for a lot of Colton and Danny’s scenes.

The plot was a little predictable, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel at all. The book is fast-paced and incredibly well written. Sim’s prose is both electric and fluid. She perfectly gets into and remains in Danny’s 17-year-old head, and I am so thankful for the way she portrays and explains his PTSD.

I highly recommend Timekeeper, especially if you’re looking for a fun, easy-to-read, romantic YA.  The romance was the winner of this book for me, but the plot was engaging and the bigger mystery was intriguing, keeping me up and reading until the very early hours of the morning.

4 stars

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