Title: Before the Broken Star
Author: Emily R King
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Romance, Magic
What’s it About: Everley looks up as Lieutenant Callahan comes into the clockmaker’s shop. She notices that he keeps looking over to the daisy clock on the shelf, but she is not willing to sell it because it is a replica of the one that her parents used to have. She asks him how she can help him, and he tells her his name, but also adds that the order that he is here to pick up is under the name Markham.
Governor Markham shows up in the store, and Everley gets really upset, her heart ticking harder, because she recognizes that he is the man that murdered her whole family, and stabbed her through the heart. He does not recognize her at all, which angers her further. Luckily, her Uncle comes out, sending her to the back of the shop, while he gives the Governor his instrument that should help him navigate to Dagger Island. Lieutenant Callahan and Governor Markham leave the shop, and Everley faints. Her uncle comes to her aid just in time, and opens up the front of her dress, where her clock heart sits, adjusting the nuts and bolts of the clock to bring her back from death.
It turns out that her uncle had been en route to Everley’s home that fateful night with a sword that her father had given him to fix, and had found her barely alive in the burning house. He installed the clock mechanism into her heart, which has kept her alive all these years, and to avoid any questions and keep her safe, he chased away all the neighbors and kept Everley hidden. Occasionally, as on this particular day, the clock’s wheels seize up, and Everley starts dying, so her uncle has to turn them with his tools until they start working again. Usually the after effects leave Everley numb and cold.
Shortly thereafter, Everley recovers and decides to head out into the night looking for someone to gain information on Markham’s whereabouts. She wants revenge for the death of her family, though her uncle pleads with her to stay behind, and asks if she is willing to darken her soul in order to kill the monster. She says that it is worth it, and heads out on the dark alleyways towards the port, where she finds Vevina, the streetwalker mistress who makes men gamble and she always wins more money than she loses. Everyone is betting on whether one of the two girls dueling—nicknamed the Cat and the Fox—will win, and of course, this time around, the Fox wins. It’s a staged fight—sometimes one or the other wins and that is how Vevina makes her money. When the girls stop fighting, Everley asks them if either one of them have seen Harlow, who in turn soon shows up. The two of them begin to duel, but it is cut short because the group begins to get rounded up by the police.
Everley manages to escape, but the regulator from her heart gives her away and she gets thrown into jail with the women. The following day, all of the women get placed in front of the queen, and they get sentenced to seven years on Dagger Island. When it is Everley’s turn, Lieutenant Callahan tries to speak on her behalf, and say that she got mixed up with the wrong people. Her uncle pleads with her to just come home, but Everley makes the split decision to be falsely accused of street walking as well, so that she can go to Dagger Island, the place that her father came from with Markham before he got killed and told her stories about. It is the same place that Markham is helping colonize, and Everley figures it would give her an opportunity to get closer.
She gets handed down the same sentence as the other women, and her uncle tries to tell her that he will try to get it overturned, but then realizes that she seriously wants to pursue Markham there. He hints that there is more to Dagger Island than Everley has been told by her father. He then proceeds to give Lieutenant Callahan the kit to tightening and caring for Everley’s clock heart, telling him to keep an eye out for her, and telling her that he will get her sword. All of the women get taken to the ship, and Everley gets placed next to Quinn, a very young girl who stole a frock and was sentenced to Dagger Island, being separated from her mother for the seven years. She keeps crying, and so they call Doctor Huxley to check in on her. He checks her but finds nothing wrong with her.
Once the boat with the women is at sea, they find themselves freed to roam the boat. The captain has a meeting with them all and tells them the rules —they can’t go to certain parts of the ship—and tells them that the Queen has allowed any man on ship to take a wife. Those that do have to decide by tomorrow, but they will be given a parcel of land on Dagger Island for marrying one of the convicts. Lieutenant Callahan warns Everley that the Doctor will ask for her hand in marriage, and that most likely he will get it because he is the highest ranking officer, just below the captain and himself. Everley goes to talk to the Doctor the following day to ask him to not marry her, but to her surprise, both Lieutenant and the Doctor request her hand in marriage. Considering that the Lieutenant is the higher ranking of the two of them, he gets Everley and they get married in a ceremony.
Of course, Everley is cross, and does not want him to touch her because she believes this will derail her plans to go after Markham, until she realizes that Lieutenant Callahan is close to Markham, and being his wife might actually be an advantage to getting more information. So she does make a peace offering and he in turn gives her sword back to her, but she never reveals her secrets. When they finally arrive at Dagger Island, Callahan introduces her to Markham, but then drops her off at the tents. She puts Quinn to sleep, and then sneaks out to the Governor’s Mansion, where she discovers that her eldest brother, Travis, is alive and working with Markham. She follows him and he is surprised that she is alive, telling her that there is more to the story of their father’s death than she was aware, and tells her to meet him the following day at noon so that he can tell her what happened. Everley makes her way back to her tent, but her clock heart is starting to fail, and she calls out for Lieutenant Jamison Callahan, asking him to bring the kit. He does, and she tells him how to wind her clock heart.
It takes her until almost noon the next day for Everley to recover from the fainting spell, and she manages to stop Vevina’s wager between two cats, giving one of the cats to Quinn to take care of. She returns to their tent, tells Quinn to go find someone else, and heads off to meet Travis, who in turn had brought in Markham and Jamison. Markham orders them all to go on his ship in order to tell Everley the truth of the night that her family was murdered, and to show her something on the island. Everley finally tells Jamison that Markham had murdered her family and while Jamison couldn’t believe it because he’s known Markham for years, he also accepted that Markham hurt Everley deeply.
An hour later, everyone is on Markham’s ship, and they head towards a different shore of Dagger Island. They have dinner aboard the ship, and there is an argument/disagreement between Markham and Everley. Harlow, who happens to have an unusual relationship with Markham, gets upset with him and stalks off from dinner. Travis comes to talk to Everley about Markham telling her that the story she grew up hearing about a prince and a princess that tore time is true and that Markham is trying to find that princess. Everley thinks that he’s making stuff up and has been swindled by Markham, but then wanders around the ship and finds Markham. He lets her stab him, and reveals that he is Prince Killian Markham, the prince in the story and he is immortal.
The following day, they arrive at the shore of Dagger Island that would enable them to enter the Thornwoods. Travis reveals to Everley that their father was going to return to Dagger Island without Markham and the Queen’s support–he was going to commit treason in order to find the riches promised. They walk for hours but get nowhere, until Markham gives Everley her sword back, the same sword that was used in the Legends involving the prince and the princess who tore time. The sword warms in her hands, and Daisies pop up one bye one leading them on a route. As they walk through the woods, they encounter a centicore, a bewitching hag, a gillyweed, and other magical creatures, until they reach the portal that takes them through to Markham’s world–the Land of Youth.
Once they are in the Land of Youth, Markham takes them through the fields and villages–all of the people had since been turned into wood. Then they go up into the castle, and Markham leads them to the tower where Princess Amadara sleeps–as a tree that has taken over the bed chamber. He punctures the exterior of the trunk and the inner cavity opens, and with Travis’ help, they pull out the woman there–who had solidified into pure wood. Markham then picks up the sword and plunges it into Amadara’s chest, because there is apparently no way to wake her. He carves out a piece from where Amadara’s heart would be–the heartwood of an elder wood. He then kills Travis, because it takes a blood sacrifice to activate the heartwood, and ties up Jamison and Everley to the tree, while everything begins to crumble underneath them. Markham and Harlow then escape, taking some of Markham’s soldiers with them.
Jamison and Everley manage to free themselves, and with the help of a pixie, Blue, they jump through the water portal under the castle that gets them back to Dagger Island, just as the castle and the world collapses on themselves. Unfortunately because her clock heart isn’t made for it, Everley’s heart seizes, and she begins to float away, seeing images of things yet to come, while Jamison works to fix her heart. When she finally returns to herself, he tells her that he used the pieces of the daisy clock to fix her heart. They make their way back through the forest to the colony, and warn everyone. Everley meets with Father Time, who tells her that she is meant to save them from Markham, but she has to get the heartwood and the sword from him. When she returns to camp, Vevina starts rowing people out to their ship, while the soldiers try to fight off the wooden soldiers from Markham’s world. Jamison and Everley manage to escape the island last with the soldiers, while the wooden soldiers try to go after them in the water but end up being pieces of driftwood. When they arrive on the ship, they are surrounded–Markham has them in their grips. Everley fights Markham in a sword fight, and gets the heartwood from him, throwing it overboard, which stops the advance of the wooden soldiers. Markham also goes overboard, to return to his ship with Harlow, but the Dorcha–another mythical creature–comes and eats him. Instead, they capture Harlow and put her in jail, while they take over Markham’s ship. The colony packs up, and initially they were going to go under Jamison’s rule–he was to be a captain–but they stage a mutiny, and Vevina becomes the Captain. At first, Everley appears to stand by Jamison, but when they get placed in his cabin, she starts kissing him, only to shackle him–she won’t go back to Dorestand and the Queen with him.
As she is leaving the cabin to rejoin Vevina, the pixie, Blue, shows up with a letter from Father Time, telling her that Markham is in the World Under the Sea, and Everley decides that this is where they need to go next. She convinces Vevina by promising riches, and they set off for that world, Chasing after Markham.
My Verdict: I’ve had this book on my to-read list for quite a bit, but I have never gotten around to it until now. I feel like this story is a mix between Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, and Pinocchio with a girl that has a clock as a heart. I can’t help but get the impression that I’ve heard of a story involving a clock hear before. Or maybe I’m just making it up.
Either way, I love the spin on all of this, because the book was definitely interesting and fun to read–I couldn’t put it down!