As a physician, Jin Soling can see that the Emperor is cracking, relying on Opium to drown his troubles. The Ch’ing Empire is failing, and war with the British is imminent, but the man to whom Soling was once engaged has a bold idea to save it.
A leader within the Ministry of Engineering, Chang-wei suggests an alliance with Japan, whose scientists claim to have technical advancements that could turn the tide of the war. But Japan has kept itself in isolation for the last two hundred years, cutting all diplomatic ties with the Ch'ing Empire. Chang-wei must enter the island nation in disguise to seek an alliance—an alliance forbidden by the Japanese shogunate.
Seeking to escape the politics of the imperial court, Soling arranges her own passage on the airship to Japan. But once they land, Chang-wei and Soling become targets of the shogunate's armored assassins. Caught between two empires, in a land distrustful of foreigners, the deadly war machines are the least of their worries...
In Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Linn, the reader is thrown back to China in the mid 1800s. Being a female physician is a challenge during this time. Jin Soling has the added challenge of serving the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. While serving the Emperor’s large harem, Jin navigates the difficult world of palace politics. The Empire is in trouble with an opium epidemic and a potential war with the Yangguizi.
Jin Soling’s old love, Cheng Chang-Wei, reappears to serve the Emperor. As a leader in the Ministry of Engineering, he is interested in the technological advancements of the Japanese. Despite the conflict between the two empires, Jin and Chang-Wei set off to attempt to negotiate between the two powers. Unfortunately, the Shogunate is not on board with this plan. With assistance from retired Samurai, other scientists, and a variety of other colorful characters, Jin and Chang-Wei work to get out alive.
There is a great deal of history about China and Japan in this book, and it is more adventure story than romance. The steampunk elements are great—the focus on accumulation of novel types of weapons, the mechanically enhanced soldiers, and the scientific bent of the characters. While the focus is not on romance, Lin does not neglect the relationship of her two main characters. Her characters subtly draw closer together over each book. If you are looking for a fast, quick romance, this is not the book for you.
I liked the first book in this series better than this one, but this was still an enjoyable romp. This book was definitely an “on the road” novel where most of the time, the characters are travelling from one place to another. It became a bit tedious toward the end, and I was ready for the resolution to happen. I would still read a third book, even though this was not my favorite installment. You really should read the books in this series in order to get the most enjoyment out of them.
Jeannie Lin writes books that no one else is writing. Her unique settings—both of time and place—make her novels interesting and fun. If you are at all interested in steampunk, Clockwork Samurai is worth a read.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina