A Clockwork Fairytale by Helen Scott Taylor
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: Full Length (187 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Water Lily
Plucky, seventeen-year-old Melba was raised like a boy to pick pockets and run messages in the poor outer circles of Royal Malverne Isle, but she longs to move up the criminal hierarchy and become a spy. When nineteen-year-old Turk, a spymaster and local folk hero, accepts her pledge to join his gang, she thinks the Great Earth Jinn has heard her prayer. With his exotic, dark southern looks and wealthy lifestyle in the inner circle, Turk fascinates her. Yet he is not what he seems—he is really a monk working undercover for the Shining Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has secret plans for Melba, plans that make her a target of the evil Royal Victualler’s foul magic, plans that challenge Melba and Turk’s beliefs about life and duty, plans that tear them apart, just as they discover what it means to fall in love.
Melba is a perfect Cinderella-type character. Stolen as a child and hidden in poverty, she’s been raised as a pick-pocket and told to pretend she’s a boy. She’s cunning yet innocent, pretty (though camouflaged with dirt), resilient, and completely unaware that she’s a princess. She is easy to root for. Once her basic needs are taken care of and she’s able to accept her femininity, her focus naturally turns to matters of the heart. She doesn’t care about being Royal. People are what matter. She’d happily give up everything for love.
Master Turk is at once Spy Master and apprentice. He’s handsome, resourceful, magically gifted and bright, but not always wise. Those he’s most loyal to are not necessarily deserving of that loyalty. He’s been raised to be obedient while breaking the law. He’s a monk attracted to the thief he’s charged with transforming into the Royal Princess. So, what does a monk do when he’s falling in love? Why give up love for the greater good, of course. But what, exactly, is the greater good? And will that greater good keep Melba safe?
Vittorio, the Royal Victualler, lusts for power. Denied a father’s love as a child, he can’t seem to stop desperately seeking his father’s recognition as an adult. The past has taught him the being good doesn’t work, so now he embraces evil. There are moments when Vittorio seems almost human, but mostly he’s been corrupted by the dark powers he tries to harness to achieve recognition, power and glory. However, the respect and adulation he strives for continues to remain just out of his grasp.
The world Helen Scott Taylor created is rich and fascinating. It’s a world of Garbage Kings, the Shining Brotherhood, Foul Jinns, and clockwork creatures animated by apple spirits. I was drawn in almost immediately. Melba and Turk are engaging characters and Turk’s conflict is compelling.
My only real complaint? The prologue is a bit of a spoiler. It makes the story too predictable and isn’t necessary. I’d recommend reading it at the end or not at all.
Despite that, A Clockwork Fairytale is a sweet, fast, fun read perfect for the YA market. I’d give this book to my twelve-year-old daughter without hesitation, knowing she’d love it.