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The Dragon Men
By Steven Harper aka Steven Piziks
Roc Fantasy, $7.99, 364pp
Release Date: November 6, 2012
This is third in Harper’s Clockwork Empire series (see The Doomsday Vault for a review of the first book, and The Impossible Cube for the second book).

Alice and Gavin are still on the run but the Third Ward no longer threatens them. They are on their way to China where it is rumored a cure exists for clockworkers…and time is running out for Gavin. Along the way, they are kidnapped by a mad clockworker who thinks to ransom Alice to China . It appears that the Chinese Emperor has put a price on her head. Gavin must use The Impossible Cube to affect an escape but the results are anything but expected. The airship with Gavin, Alice, Susan Phipps, what’s left of Kemp, and Alice ’s automatons are translated three years into the future. In the meantime, the old Chinese Emperor is dying and his young son is in line for the throne; but he won’t get there because a General is scheming to take over the Empire. The General also wants Alice but not for the same reason. China reveres clockworkers – the Dragon Men – and keeps them well cared for but enslaved directly to the Emperor. Since Alice carries the cure for the plague, which has destroyed Britain ’s ability to keep up their supply of clockworkers, China wishes to kill Alice to keep the plague cure out of China . Having the biggest supply of clockworkers will give China control over the whole world. Alice still believes China holds a cure for clockworkers and she’s willing to hand herself over to get it. Fortunately, she falls in with the young heir and his mother rather than the General. The mother wants her son on the throne and has promised Alice that should Alice help her, she will put the entire country’s resources to finding a cure. Alice doesn’t have much choice.

But things rarely go as hoped for. There is a cure but it isn’t what any of them imagined. And the path to the cure isn’t what was expected either. And the cure is in the hands, so to speak, of someone that Gavin never expected to see again. Sacrifices have to be made for the greater good, which is always hard if you’re the one expected to make the sacrifice.

This was a lot of fun. The plotting was well done, the world building wasn’t as detailed in China as I would have liked, the characters were good although I would’ve liked more from Susan. And the climax was everything one might wish for. ~~ Catherine Book

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