Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.
By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.
When Grey’s father is arrested for a crime she has committed, she retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. Among the living curios Grey searches for the one person who can help her get home and save her father. But he’s in disguise, embroiled in a revolution, and reluctant to remember his past in Grey’s world. To get home, Grey must join a band of freedom fighters, escape the grasp of the obsessed porcie ruler, and uncover the incredible secret of her own identity.
“You’re a Defender?” Grey scooted forward in her seat. “Until a few days ago I thought the Chemists killed them all.”
“Not all.” Blaise lifted the edge of his vest, exposing the skin at his belt line. A pattern circling his navel glowed with blue-white light.
Grey gasped. She slipped off her seat and stood before him. With one finger she rucked the fabric of her shirt up. Her own mark gleamed with the same hue. Blaise reached a hand out then stopped, his fingers hovering over the pattern on her skin. He met her eyes, a question in his. Grey nodded and held her stance, her skin quivering when his finger brushed it. He traced a line curling away from her navel.
“A Defender’s mark,” he whispered into the darkness.
The emblem tingled beneath his touch. Grey expected the whorls to spin and dance. She lowered her shirt and took a steadying breath. Blaise dropped his hand as though he’d been caught playing with a potion bottle.
“It just appeared one morning after I . . .” She flattened her palm over her mark. Whit’s face as he’d looked climbing into the chug boat flared through her mind.
“After you sacrificed for someone else?” Blaise nodded. “That’s what kindles the Defender state. Didn’t they explain that when they gave you the well-spring water?”
“Water? What water? No one explained anything. Granddad said I was different, we were different, that’s all.”
“Wait.” Blaise held up one long finger. “In the air, you said your grandfather sent you to his store. Olan? Olan Harvardsson is your grandfather? Then you’re a Defender by blood.”
“You knew my granddad?” The conversation Grey’d overheard in the store came back. “I don’t understand how he and my father escaped the Cleanse. The Council knows they’re different. Adante knew I was different.”
“Steinar.” Blaise’s voice sliced through her musing. “You’re Steinar’s daughter?”
He jumped off the table. Grey’s mark flamed as they stood facing each other. Blaise’s chest heaved, and his fists curled at his sides. Before she collected her wits, he spun around and marched for the door.
“Wait. You knew my father and grandfather. Tell me-”
“Yes, I knew them.” He stopped, his hand on the doorknob. His voice ground like a rough gear. “Steinar Haward is the reason I’m here.”
Wow! Where do I start? What a read! Defenders, Chemists, porcies, tocks; Evangeline Denmark has created a fascinating world – no, two fascinating worlds – in Curio. They were so well thought-out and creative that the author had even considered how the porcies would applaud! (By rubbing their palms together in slow circles, creating a low ringing sound – in case you were wondering.) Details like this, woven seamlessly throughout the story, really brought the setting and characters to life. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland, looking around in wonder exclaiming, “Curiouser and curiouser.”
The plot unfolds across both worlds, because while Grey is busy navigating the world of porcies and tocks, looking for whomever it is she is supposed to bring back, and getting caught up in a revolution, her friend Whit is back in Mercury City, attempting to carry on the work that Grey’s father had been doing until his arrest: smuggling rations to the refugees in the mountains. Both missions are fraught with tension and made for a riveting read (pun intended!) The best part is, there is a strong suggestion that the adventure is not over (but rest assured – there is no cliff-hanger ending).
The one caveat I give in recommending this novel is that I felt the attraction between the main characters was sometimes a little intense for a YA audience. I’m pretty conservative when it comes to romance and YA readers – wary of stoking the fire, shall we say – and so I simply mention it here for the sake of other parents who may wish to take this into consideration before giving it to their teens to read. There are a couple of descriptive kisses, and occasions when the characters experience a strong sense of physical attraction. There are also a few scenes with Lord Blueboy (the main porcie) where his fascination with Grey becomes sensual (and even predatory), but as the porcies do not engage in the same kind of procreative act as humans do, it’s a little nebulous as to what his intentions actually are.
Caveat notwithstanding, this was a fantastic read and I look forward to seeing what comes next!
I received a copy of this book through BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review.
Publisher: Blink (Harper Collins)
Author’s Website: http://www.evangelinedenmark.com/Previous books in the series: