The Girl in the Clockwork Tower by Lou Wilham

Steampunk Rapunzel-inspired tale? Check.
Dashing captain of an airship? Check.
Magic? Check.
Weird obsession with pineapples? Check!

The Girl in the Clockwork Tower is a steampunk Rapunzel-inspired tale full of adventure and magic and great, well-developed characters.

Persinette was brought to MOTHER headquarters at the age of 8 and has since been used as a seer, tracking the ‘Enchanted’ so that they can be captured by MOTHER’s agents and placed in concentration camps. 16 years later, Persinette, or Persi, doesn’t take the entrapment of her own kind lightly but is under constant threat from her controlling agent Gothel who makes it clear that once Persi is no longer useful to MOTHER, she will be disposed of.

Luckily for Persi, the Enchanted are not completely defenceless and the ‘Uprising’ have also noticed her talents. Captain Manu Kelii is tasked with recruiting Persi to their cause but can the charming airship captain protect the Seer from the formidable MOTHER?

Lou Wilham’s characters are so well developed you will feel as if you have known them forever. Persinette begins her adventure as a timid, downtrodden, lavender haired girl: used as an asset for as long as she can remember. However, by the closing pages, Persi is a survivor, wielding her new-found magic and is unwilling to be an “asset” for anyone but herself.

Despite Persi’s evolution from broken to badass, Captain Manu Kelii steals the show. Manu is a puppy dog, so eager to please and very confident in himself. When he finally receives a mission from the leader of the Uprising he is like a kid at Christmas and his bizarre obsession with pineapple provides both humour and an almost arrogant air about him. However, Manu’s clear adoration and care for Persi really cause him to grow as a character: this is potentially the first time Manu has worried for someone other than himself.

I would have liked a little more backstory from Manu, we know how he came to be on the ‘Duchess’ and we know him now but what happened in the meantime? It would be nice to have a little more insight into our pirate captain’s previous adventures.

Some reviewers have said this book is not a true Rapunzel retelling and I can see what they mean to a certain extent. I can certainly appreciate that the towns of Pascal and Maximus, the organisation Mother and agent Gothel do feel quite forced. However, Persinette was the “maiden in the tower” of literature before Grimm’s Rapunzel grew her first curl and when you think that Wilham’s Persi is imprisoned in a tower, desperate to explore the outside world but, most importantly, to discover who she truly is, you start to realise that the stories aren’t a million miles apart after all.

That being said, the cute Disney-esque details weren’t really needed, they certainly weren’t what made this story great: The Girl in the Clockwork Tower would have easily stood its own ground without any affinity to Rapunzel being made.

It shouldn’t need adding but sadly the lack of diversity in other novels means that readers find it refreshing and reassuring when LGBTQIA characters are included and Lou Wilham does not disappoint. Eddi, the leader of the uprising uses gender neutral pronouns and Benard and Owen are the cutest “gay dads” to Manu.
I really appreciated how these characters’ genders or sexuality were not under a spotlight: pronouns were used and relationships were explained, just as they were with Manu and Persi and that is just how it should be.

The Girl in the Clockwork tower is a gritty fairytale; complete with love, magic, villains, airships, concentration camps and a fair amount of alcohol on Manu’s part! Persi’s adventure sees her discovering her strength, her magic and maybe even finding love: this is one damsel who doesn’t need a man to save the day!

Thank you to Booksirens. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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