Review: Chainbreaker by Tara Sim


“Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched.

But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks …” — [X]

Yes, this is the second book in a series.

Yes, I’ve reviewed the first book here, you’re welcome.

Yes, this is a series well worth your time.

Now, *rubs hands gleefully* I would like to begin by saying: I TOTALLY CALLED IT RE: ACKNOWLEDGING THE BRITISH RAJ IN INDIA. Maybe it wasn’t such a huge leap, but I ever so rarely get bookish predictions right, so just let me have this okay?

I specifically said that this book may dive a little deeper into the realities of the British Raj, but really “dive a little deeper” doesn’t cover it. Chainbreaker basically drops Danny and Daphne from a height, into India, without a parachute. It’s a dramatic free-fall and for a while, I was as dazed and disoriented as Danny and Daphne were.

Daphne is the first to receive news about India’s falling towers, how they’ve been attacked, and how time has continued to flow in these places despite the demise of the local clock spirits. She correctly guesses that she and Danny will be asked to investigate these bombings in India since they’ve already done something similar in England. Danny is reluctant to go, but from a narrative standpoint separating Danny and Colton was a good choice for developing Colton’s personality and his backstory. It also gives Danny and Daphne to be more than colleagues, to be friends. It also–and this is my absolute favourite development–allows us to learn more about Daphne, to feel what she feels about the fact that is a white-passing desi girl in England, what her identity means in India, what choices are available to her so she may gain some control in how people perceive her/how she perceives herself.

Aside from giving these core cast of characters some very interesting arcs, we are also introduced to some new, equally complex characters. And every character has their own personal motive for visiting the towers in India. These personal motives, however, are rarely private things though. They are often political motives–how could they not be? It makes for very interesting bonds between characters, where they want to be friends (or, at least, friendly), but don’t know if they can trust one another.

Which is another thing I love about Sim taking her story to India in the 1870s. It is around 20 years after the Revolt of 1857 and about 50 years before India won its freedom. It’s a complicated time to be anyone, really. And Sim reveals the biases of both sides of the struggle carefully. Daphne and Danny have prejudices, as does every single character around them, whether they are British or Indian. What Sim does is presents each of them with situations designed to either help them grow or stubbornly cling on to what they’ve always known. It’s fascinating, frustrating, and altogether wonderful how she did this. Aside from this, we also get some more details on how time functions in this world. All of this is revealed without either histories overshadowing the other, or feeling like too much exposition.

I am still parsing through my feelings on a certain character revealing something that may point to them being asexual–thrilling for this quoiromantic/demisexual lady–but my conflicted feelings on this, while important to mention (because I need someone to talk to about this) have not affected my opinion on the rest of this fantastic book. Chainbreaker is the kind of book I’ve craved since my teens. It’s not only a steampunk novel that actively discusses colonization as part of the main plot, but is also a look at what it means to be of a certain place/people/culture when you don’t always look or feel it. Tara Sim literally gave me the book of my dreams.

Definitely recommended.

PS: I still recommend the audiobook. It is still narrated by Gary Furlong who did his damn best with all the Hindi and Urdu. I enjoyed every second.