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  • Writer's pictureC. L. Schneider

Review: Borrowed Time (Like Clockwork Bk #1), By Clifton Stringfield & J. R. Swiger

Hungry for something different? Looking for a sweeping, episodic, and masterfully crafted adventure to get lost in? Borrowed Time (Like Clockwork, Book 1) is all that and more. This was my first foray into the genre of steampunk, and I was enchanted from the very first page. The story has a timeless, classic feel. An unmistakable epic quality that would allow it to be set against any backdrop, in any genre. It is an intricately designed puzzle that spans a vast colorful world where every turn has meaning and everyone—I mean everyone—has a role to play and a secret to tell. The authors went to great care to paint each and every character in brilliant colors. From the young orphan Ettrin Alavaster, with a brave heart and an astounding head for numbers, to Ruloff Valisto, the charismatic, legendary rogue who is never without a plan. The cast is huge, vibrant, and unforgettable. Borrowed Time has an Indiana Jones feel that is captivating. It begins in the fascinating walled city of Antiquiem, then after a daring theft, quickly blossoms into a world spanning adventure. Each setting is richly detailed and seemingly more thought-out than the last, making this grand journey epic not only in scope, but in length and vision. In Borrowed Time, everything means something. There are no loose ends. No meaningless character actions or conversations. Being co-written, I expected to see subtle differences in tone or style where one author’s voice might have overridden the other, but if such discrepancies exist, I couldn’t find them. This is a tale so carefully devised I could picture the authors plotting it out as some giant web with each strand being painstakingly placed so that all pieces fit seamlessly into the whole. The copious amount of action and adventure keeps the pace swift, but there is also mystery aplenty as well as poignant character defining scenes, with just a touch of romance. I won’t deny that initially the page count seems daunting. But you reach a point where you stop paying attention to how much is left because you’re infinitely more concerned with what might happen next. There are many questions that need answering (they multiply as you read on), and that is part of the fun. I can hardly imagine what direction the next installment in the story might take. To quote one of the characters, “Under every grain of sand lies a story to be told.” That is a promise that Borrowed Time never fails to keep.

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