With her "Mrs. McGillicuddy Mysteries", of which The Clockwork Companion is the starting entry, Author K. H. Koehler ventures into the Steampunk genre with a cautious foot still firmly planted in horror and urban fantasy. A story is enjoyed for it's plot, but remembered for its setting and characters. Because of this, I feel both Clockwork Companion and it's fuller-length follow-up book, A Clockwork Vampire will live eternally in the minds of readers, much like their undead protagonist, the title vampire Edwin McGillicuddy. In what other realm do vampires, were-creatures, and twenty-first century computers coexist with steam-powered orbital airships and clockwork artificial hearts? Here's a welcome result of Koehler's genre-mingling.
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Readers are introduced to Edwin and his mortal wife, Eliza, in the moment where the couple themselves are introduced to one another. It is only by Eliza's mechanical know-how that the critically injured Edwin is rescued from the second, and final death, after he wanders into her clock repair workshop one rainy night with a gunshot wound to the heart. The wind-up prosthetic she outfits him with endears him to her in a Nightingale-reminiscent moment. Before long, romance ensues, and Koehler cements the reader's attention with the first of several "steamy" steampunk love scenes.
The story continues by previewing the first few chapters of The Clockwork Vampire and establishing the mysterious circumstances that set the McGillicuddy twosome in pursuit of a vampire-killing assassin. Further summary is best left to a review of that book, so I'll switch now to describing the remaining 'bonus features' included in The Clockwork Companion.
A very helpful Glossary informs readers of the complex sub-culture of nonhumans in Koehler's world, defining key concepts such as courtier life and legal status of vampires in the larger society. However, I recommend readers skip over it until after reading the story proper. It includes entries for major characters that are robbed of a splashy entrance in the story if you've already become acquainted in the Glossary.
The other inclusion in The Clockwork Companion is one that can't be fully appreciated by the eye's alone: a playlist of suggested songs to accompany your reading of the story is an idea that intrigues me. The songs are purely for mood setting, so readers need not worry about synchronized playback or anything. I know many readers who prefer to read this way, but I'm no synesthete myself, and so I can't comment on the selections offered. Enjoy or Ignore as you will, but it seems a like a thoughtful insight into the author's inspirational sources.
My final recommendation on The Clockwork story pair is a solid 4/5, with points earned for uniqueness and seasonal appropriateness for the week I chose to read (October 2011). My personal tastes for Steampunk stories favor a little more gadgetry and little less romance, but I'll forgive the matter here out of gratitude for the delightful characters we've been given. I hope future stories with the McGillicuddys are forthcoming!