Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

ticker-mantchevTicker by Lisa Mantchev, published in December 2014 by Skyscape.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository.

Source: publisher via Netgalley (it was to-read for a while). Thank you, Skyscape, for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA steampunk.

When Penny Farthing nearly dies, brilliant surgeon Calvin Warwick manages to implant a brass “Ticker” in her chest, transforming her into the first of the Augmented. But soon it’s discovered that Warwick killed dozens of people as he strove to perfect another improved Ticker for Penny, and he’s put on trial for mass murder.

On the last day of Warwick’s trial, the Farthings’ factory is bombed, Penny’s parents disappear, and Penny and her brother, Nic, receive a ransom note demanding all of their Augmentation research if they want to see their parents again. Is someone trying to destroy the Farthings…or is the motive more sinister? 

Desperate to reunite their family and rescue their research, Penny and her brother recruit fiery baker Violet Nesselrode, gentleman-about-town Sebastian Stirling, and Marcus Kingsley, a young army general who has his own reasons for wanting to lift the veil between this world and the next. Wagers are placed, friends are lost, romance stages an ambush, and time is running out for the girl with the clockwork heart. (Goodreads)

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My rating: 2/5.

Best quote: we’d crawled out of sadness on hands and knees over emotions sharp as glass.

I did not particularly enjoy this book. I feel like maybe steampunk isn’t really my favourite genre – or maybe I just haven’t read a good steampunk novel yet (I read The Falconer, which was a disappointment, as well, and The Mortal Instruments, which I’m very conflicted about). I saw a brilliant review of Leviathan, so I might give that a try… I like the idea of machines and brass and historical stuff, but so far I haven’t found a convincing setting yet.

What I liked:

  • The cover. It’s gorgeous and it’s the main reason I requested this novel.
  • The beginning of the plot. A girl with a clockwork heart is slowly dying because her heart was only a prototype, but the only man who could fix it is a murderous lunatic who butchered people in order to perfect a new heart for her (talk about feeling guilty!).
  • The style. I like Mantchev’s writing. It’s clear and to the point, the story flows along nicely and if I actually liked the contents of this book, I’d be giving it a much higher rating just because of this.
  • The mechanical mind-controlling bugs. EWWWW (and awesome). They would be a good addition to this list.

What I disliked:

  • The main character. You can see how this would be a problem, right? From what I can tell, 95 % of the drama is the result of Penny’s foolish decisions. She has a heart condition, for example, and insists on riding an unsafe mechanical horse anyway, over-loading her heart and causing it to stop. She rushes blindly into danger even when it’s the stupidest thing she could do. She’s also quite vain and overly concerned with her dresses.
  • The love interest. Marcus is such a flat character. I can’t help but feel like the feelings between him and Penny are totally forced, there’s simply no chemistry between them. He spouts nonsense like: “hope is an ever-blooming flower.” Perhaps it’s just me, but excruciating politeness and stiff solemnity were never on my list of desirable traits in a male character that’s supposed to be loved.
  • The special lanugage expressions. There’s a vaguely Latin vibe to everything that’s different than in our world. The currency, the inventions, the honorary titles – they all sound like we’ve stumbled into Ancient Rome, while the dresses are all bustles and crinolines of Victorian England. Even their champagne has a pretentious name, Effervescence.
  • The steampunkish stuff. As I said, I’m not convinced by steampunk. Here, they had something like four different message-relaying machines that sounded really improbable, but I was the most offended by mechanical horses. Apart from the fact that they didn’t really do anything other than normal horses (well, maybe they didn’t poop as much, but that’s never mentioned), they actually needed constant recalibration and were worse than useless – there were also cars and motorbikes, mind you, so I really don’t understand why the horses were needed.
  • The mix of genres. From the Goodreads synopsis, I assumed this would be some sort of adventure tale of trying to save Penny’s life – which it is, of course. But added to that we have some Frankenstein-type horror and paranormal occurences (speaking with ghosts The Othersstyle).
  • And goddammitwhydotheyalwayshavetoincludebabiesdyingI’msickofthisshitI can’t deal with that and I KNOW FOR A FACT that there are other ways of making readers commiserate with the characters. And why, WHY would anyone want to make a posthumous portrait of ANYONE and pretend they’re still alive? Ok, maybe it’s a cultural difference or something but it’s just so freaking weird. See what happened? The book made me use caps in a review.

So, you know, not exactly my favourite read of 2014. If you like creepy stuff, it might be more to your liking. I just never ever (EVER) read horror if I can help it – not that this is true horror in terms of gore or whatever, but it still freaked me out, especially because it doesn’t seem to fit. I’m sad to say I won’t be recommending this with much enthusiasm.

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Have you read this novel? Did you like it any better?

Does it bother you when the book turns out to be something you didn’t expect? 

  • No it’s not just you, I wouldn’t be drawn to excruciating politeness either. ;) I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who found issue with Ticker. Honestly, I read about 5 pages of it and then decided it wasn’t for me. I’ve read a fair amount of steampunk and it seemed like Mantchev was trying a little too hard to incorporate every single element of steampunk world building she could, even in only a few pages.

    If you’re looking for better steampunk, I recommend Leviathan highly! I think you’d really like that one, especially the split POVs. For adult steampunk I’d recommend Soulless by Gail Carriger. It’s a steampunk romance (!!!!) and I thought it was hilarious and charming.

    • Kaja

      Yes, that’s it exactly. She stuffed the world full of UNNECESSARY devices that served as distractions from the actual happening.

      Oh, cool, thanks for the suggestions! I’ll check them out! As I said, I like the concept of steampunk but just haven’t met my perfect match yet :)

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