Review: The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire #1) by Steven Harper

The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire #1) by Steven Harper
 AceRoc (Penguin/Nov 2011)
Source: From publisher for review
Purchase: Amazon| Barnes and Noble

In a clockwork Brittania, Alice’s prospects are slim. At 21, her age and her unladylike interest in automatons have sealed her fate as an undesirable marriage prospect. But a devastating plague sends Alice off in a direction beyond the pale-towards a clandestine organization, mad inventors, life-altering secrets, and into the arms of an intrepid fiddle-playing airship pilot.

Alice Michaels’ prospects are not good. In 1850’s London, it’s all about appearances. Well, appearances and money, and Alice and her father simply don’t have any. She’s to be a Baroness, but since Alice’s mother, brother, and fiancé were killed by the clockwork plague, it left her father a cripple, and Alice a social pariah. Hoping to get back into society’s good graces, Alice decides to attend a ball, and see if she can meet someone willing to marry her and take care of her father and their many debts. However, society doesn’t look kindly on girls that prefer to be elbow deep in automatons instead of at dances. However, when she meets the outspoken and frank Louisa Creek, she’s glad she’s found someone to confide her true interests and desires. At the dance, she also meets the agreeable Norbert Williamson (rich to be sure), who seems to take an interest in Alice in spite of, or perhaps because of, her unusual proclivities. Then Alice acquires a rather unusual inheritance from her Aunt Edwina, who seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Aunt Edwina’s disappearance will be very important to the story, Alice’s future, and possibly, the world.

Meanwhile, on an airship high above London, 17 year old Gavin Ennock is one year away from becoming a full airman, enjoying the company of his comrades and entertaining them with his wonderful talent as a fiddler. When his ship is attacked by pirates, he finds himself stranded on the streets of London. Eventually, his path will cross with Alice’s with life changing results. After helping to thwart a zombie attack, Gavin and Alice are asked to be part of a clandestine organization (funded by the Queen) called the Third Ward, that rounds up Clockworkers to harness their amazing abilities. Clockworkers are those that are stricken with the clockwork plague but are affected in a completely different way, able to create amazing gadgets and inventions, some with the power to end life on our planet (hence the Doomsday Vault).

Where do I start with The Doomsday Vault? Coming in at just under 400 pages, the author manages to pack a LOT into this novel, and he does it expertly. Alice desperately wants to explore her talent for machines, but fights against her need for security and a means to care for her father. Then there’s that really irritating attraction to Gavin. She can’t get him off her mind, but for the most part, remains resolute in her determination to marry Williamson and take her expected place in society, in spite of the freeing adventures she has with Gavin and the Third Ward. I’ll admit, Alice’s stubbornness made me want to smack her at times, but who am I to judge? I live in a time where women can be pretty much whatever they want, without the weight of society’s expectations on her shoulders, so I tried to give Alice some leeway here:)  I totally fell in love with Gavin, who’s bravery and determination made him a hero to root for. You’ll have great fun exploring the Third Ward, and the author created such a rich and lavish world for his characters, that I felt I could (happily) have gotten lost in it for hours. Among the general awesomeness that is this book, Alice has a charming automaton manservant called Kemp, a mechanical cat called Click, and a gaggle of automatons that assist her in just about everything. Plus, I did mention zombies, yes? Twists and turns abound, and the author managed to lob some shockers at me that I’ll admit I didn’t see coming. I’ll admit, my only complaint about this book is that it wasn’t longer, because I didn’t want to leave Alice and Gavin’s London! If you love your Victorian adventures filled with zombies, amazing automatons, steampunk flare, and an impeccable eye for detail, you’ll love the fascinating (and fantastical) Doomsday Vault!


  1. Pingback: Interview and Giveaway: Steven Harper, author of The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire #1) | My Bookish Ways

  2. Great review! I was looking at this at the bookstore the other day, and was on the fence about it, but now I think i’ll go back and buy a copy. 😀

  3. 5 hats?! Hell yeah! Awesome review hon. I love that title LOL! The characters sound great especially Gavin. He sounds noteworthy LOL! But Victorian era, steampunk, fantasy, and zombies? Brilliant! Great review again hon, thank you 🙂

  4. Oh Man! This sounds amazing! I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I think it needs to be on my WANT list! 😀 Thank you!!!

  5. Nice review, I dont read much steampunk but this author sounds talented. So much packed in just like you said, and all elements that I would like!

  6. Pingback: Blogoversary Giveaway #7: The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper | My Bookish Ways

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