Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

“Two o’clock was missing.”

First line in Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Author: Tara Sim

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Series: Book 1 in Timekeeper (trilogy)

Synopsis:

I was in an accident. I got out. I’m safe now.

An alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, where a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

A prodigy mechanic who can repair not only clockwork but time itself, determined to rescue his father from a Stopped town.

A series of mysterious bombings that could jeopardize all of England.

A boy who would give anything to relive his past, and one who would give anything to live at all.

A romance that will shake the very foundations of time.

Goodreads

Blurb from Victoria Schwab: “An extraordinary debut, at once familiar and utterly original.”

Timekeeper is Tara Sim’s debut novel and with a starting point that is this good, I’m definitely reading more of her books. I didn’t have high expectations of this book going into it, but it caught my attention for its LGBTQ+ themes and because it’s set in Victorian London (although in an alternate reality). There was never really any doubt of me reading it because of those things, but the book ended up giving me so much more.

As always, I’ll give some headlines about what I liked and didn’t like about the book and then talk about it in a more general sense in the end. Even though I gave the book 5 stars, there are still a few things that could have been better but they didn’t do much to hinder my overall enjoyment of the book (but they might be the reason you don’t want to pick it up). I’ll start by getting those out of the way.

  • Inconceivable and vague magic system

The magic system concerns time and that is always a tricky one. It’s very rarely done perfectly and maybe that is why Sim didn’t give us too many details. At least not in the beginning. I had so many practical questions about time in this world and most of those weren’t answered until the last third of the book. The information wasn’t even withheld because plot points made it necessary, so it felt a little frustrating to be kept in the dark. 

It didn’t bother me too much in the end because it sort of felt like magical realism. It’s something that’s there that you’re not supposed to understand completely but it still functions as a backdrop for the characters to maneuver in. The first half of the book is heavily focused on Danny’s relationship with Colton and the magic is not that important yet.

  • Slow start

It takes a while for the plot to really unfold and instead we spend the time learning about the characters and their relation to each other. It felt a bit dull when I was reading it, but I also realized that it was necessary when I got further along in the book. If you’re a character-driven reader, I doubt that you’ll mind this slow start.

  • Themes

Timekeeper is a fantasy book that deals with some very relevant and modern topics, and that is my favorite part of this book. We of course have the LGBTQ+ representation. It’s handled very well and the characters actually talk about it a lot, which I find is kind of rare for a fantasy story. Another theme is mental health and specifically anxiety (not a spoiler, it’s in the first chapter). I have a soft spot for anxiety representation in fantasy and this is no exception. Minor themes include grief, identity and family issues.

  • Writing style

I found Sim’s writing really pleasant to read. She’s very good at depicting emotions and creating an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re there in London with the characters. It’s done very elegantly and without the use of too many words. I didn’t feel flooded by flowery descriptions which left more room for some beautiful dialogue.

  • The main character

I loved Danny as a main character! He is very flawed in this first book in a trilogy, which I like because that means character development. I really appreciated how he actually acted like a 17-year-old (often that meant that he was a bit of an idiot but a lovable idiot). Not all YA authors are able to write realistic teens but Sim honestly nailed it. I’m so intrigued to see how she develops his character over the next two books.  

Timekeeper is such a recommend-worthy YA novel for those of you who feel that YA fantasy is all the same nowadays. And I will highlight that this IS YA. Not a New Adult book trying to act like YA, which I really appreciated. The writing is simplistic enough and as I mentioned earlier, it felt like I was reading from a teen’s perspective.

I also briefly want to touch upon that fact that this story is set in an alternate Victorian London. ‘Alternate’ is the key word here. If you’re picking this up to experience the vibe and atmosphere of the Victorian Era, you might be disappointed. At one point, I actually thought that the world was more like our 2019-world just without the technological advances. Culturally and linguistically it felt very modern because Sim kind of just created the world she wanted for this story. It works very well in my opinion but you will feel cheated if you go into this thinking that it’s historical fiction.

Finally, I want to summarize this review by saying that I’m so glad I read this book. And I was so surprised by that fact. Even halfway through the book, I didn’t think very highly of it. I was going to give it a solid 3 stars and stow it away in that giant box of ‘okay, but forgettable’ reads. The last fourth I think changed everything and I couldn’t stop reading it. It gave so much more meaning to what I’d read so far and also promised a lot of excitement for the next books. I can’t wait to continue.

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