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.
But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey 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. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.
Curio is set in Mercury City, Colorado in an alternative history ruled by the Chemists with their tyrannical rules, strange potions, and blood magic. But for most of the story, protagonist Grey Haward is spent locked within a strange curio cabinet where she must figure out how to survive among the vain porcelain people and their clockworking counterparts, the tocks.
This blend of steampunk, fantasy, and romance tested my ability to suspend my disbelief, but this is one of my first encounters with steampunk and clockwork.
The characters felt real enough. The world-building and creativity was great, but it seemed we only just skimmed the surface. There was definitely a sense of peril and plenty of adventure to be had. This story would have been great to see on the big screen. But I felt lost most of the time. I had so many questions. Some of them got answered toward the end, so I can only assume there will be more stories to come. Yet it definitely read like a stand-alone with nice closure at the end for the most part.
Overall, I did enjoy the story. Although, about three-quarters of the way into the story, I was making threats against the book and demanding for a good ending, but I am pleased to say the ending came through.
If you like steampunk and romance stories, check this one out. Denmark is an author I will be watching.
***I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher to read and review.***