Getting it Wrong
To be frank, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read Before the Broken Star. I had gotten it free someplace; I’m guessing BookBub, and it had been sitting around in my queue for a while. But I needed something new to read, and this was next. I tend to be orderly, if anything, in my reading queue.
Then it started off with the tired trope of an orphan, which made my eyes roll. Seemed like a pap filled volume for young girls. A waste of my time.
I was very wrong.
Sure, there is the orphan girl, not fitting into her home and the usual. But this girl is special. Not in the well-worn chosen one sense.
Different Kind of Orphan
She has a mechanical, clockwork heart. And she lived with her loving uncle. Not some horrid adoptive parents. Nor did she follow Oliver Twist into the streets. Nor had she been shuffled off to some cold institution and tortured.
This alone should have alerted me—Everley’s tale is unique.
So, our orphan with the clockwork heart starts the story off, not in some miserable home, but in a fashionable clock shop, selling high-end timepieces. On the very day a close associate of the man who killed her family and pierced her heart with a sword happened to pick up a clock.
There are No Coincidences
Mind you, this is sleight-of-hand—nothing in this book happens by coincidence.
In fact, the further we go into Everley’s adventure, the more intricate the design becomes. Stray observations, snatches of conversation, and folk tales, merely interesting at the time, become crucial parts of the story’s inner workings. Much like the fine clockwork that keeps the blood pumping through her body. Which needs adjustments. Care. Though it does betray her at times.
The layers are thick and deep in this story. Expect things to change. Often. Unexpectedly. Yet precisely the way they must. Once you know enough.
This knowing evolves over a long series of reveals, small, large, and universe-altering. As secrets are revealed, the story keeps metamorphosing from one kind of story into another.
Answering the Question
So, at first, she tries on the role of all orphans—trying to fit in where she doesn’t belong. For her, a clockwork heart that rings aloud at any sign of physical or emotional trouble makes finding her place especially hard.
First, she dons on the role of a rebellious teen bent on revenging her family and herself. For the night a captain of the queen’s navy killed her whole family and put a sword through her heart.
Her uncle, a horologist, the man who fashioned her clockwork heart, admonishes her, asking, “could you become a monster to kill one?”
Full of anger and hate, she has, of course, decided that the answer is an emphatically yes. Thus, Everley works toward her revenge and what she thinks will calm the wound in her soul. And her story starts its journey from the mundane into the mythic.
Out one night, she sneaks out to practice the skills she’ll use to kill the monster that murdered her family and learn what she can about why the Captain has come to port here. She did this often, but that night the city authorities raid unexpectedly, and is jailed. Almost immediately, her understanding of the world is called into question.
From Angry Teen, through Ahab, to the Mythic
The story begins its transformation from a simple orphan’s coming of age story into a cautionary tale of obsession like Ahab’s. Other stories slip around her, catching her up in their wide nets, including a shipboard journey. A penal colony. Forced marriages. And the truth behind an island where a great civilization took its last breath.
Her purpose strains as she learns more of that murderous night years before, of her father, her family, and the captain.
Truth is slippery in King’s hands. People transform in front of Everly’s eyes as deeper truths are revealed. Gods and beings from legend appear. And our orphan with the clockwork heart steps into the myths. Walking into stories she heard as a child, before the monster who slew her family broke into her house. A far bigger, vastly more interesting story than the first few pages suggest. A slow seduction, if you will.
In this book, trust no first impression. And few words. Nothing is quite what it seems, nor are all monsters what they seem.
(More thoughts on fantasy books, shows and movies on the blog, right here.)