Pagliassotti, Dru -- Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind [e-book purchase]

Many years ago (2008!) I read Clockwork Heart. What I remember: (1) The setting was surprisingly well-considered, with economics and international politics playing into the background and ultimately into the storyline. (2) The romance plot offered a shy nerdy blonde brother and a brooding dangerous dark brother; the latter turned out to be a villain and the heroine wound up with the former. (3) Clockwork computers and antigravity wing suits.

(The flying suits and the computers both rely on the same plotdevicium metal. The physics isn't as well-put-together as the economics and politics. Give it a pass, move on.)

Now, in book two, shy-nerd-guy has been coopted as an ambassador (the curse of being high-caste) and his now-wife is part of the ambassadorial party. A surprising number of assassination attempts later, they discover that they've jumped from the romance genre into spy thriller. They have to stay alive, get home, and then foil a dastardly plot. I will let slip that the dastardly plot involves airships so that you can anticipate impressive wingsuit-vs-airship hijinks.

The writing remains good. All the character have natural cultural biases. They make assumptions and sometimes make mistakes; but they're not blind mistakes. Nobody is made out to be a stupid provincial.

Also, the author gets that when you put two random romance protagonists into a spy plot, they do not magically become spy heroes. Being wounded is horrible; killing people is horrible; being exhausted and wounded and hungry puts a serious crimp in your life. But our heroes grit their teeth and get on with it because they have to. Admittedly, the plot is contrived to make sure they're the ones on the spot, but it seems ungrateful to complain. I mean, ungrateful for me to complain. The characters have every right to.

Finally, it's nice to see a series start with "romance" and move on to "partners". I recently dinged Fortune's Pawn for failing to make that jump, so I should praise this one for succeeding at it. The protagonists are married, they love each other, they worry about each other, and they know each other pretty well. (They also don't have to stop the plot every other chapter to have mad sex. In fact, in most chapters, they're too tired and hungry and wounded to try. Realism!)

The closing tag promises that a third book will conclude the trilogy. I suspect that it will get back to the assumptions of Ondinium society. The country is a blatant police state and a strict caste society. Albeit a caste society with social mobility via (theoretically) fair computer-administered examinations. The protagonists, native Ondiniums, do not question any of this; others do. I hope the author is building up to questioning it, because the "papers please" attitude is creepy as heck to the audience.

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