The Empty Hourglass by Cornelia Grey. ★★1/2
My problem with The Empty Hourglass is that I kept waiting for things to start happening. Around 80% of the way through I realized, this was it. This was what I was getting. And it just wasn’t enough.
The Empty Hourglass is a steampunk leaning story about a toymaker named Thomas Escott who lost his hand during a fire in his workshop. A mysterious note recommends that he visit Jethro Hastings, a reclusive inventor that is known for making unusual prosthetics. Thomas soon finds that Jethro’s prosthetics are frankly impossible – mechanical limbs that attach directly to the body and work without an obvious power source. And the villagers whisper that Jethro has made a deal with the devil…
Even before I realized that nothing was happening (or that nothing would happen), I thought The Empty Hourglass felt “light.” There was no real depth to the characters, world building, or plot. The world building was presumably steampunk? But it was hard to get a sense of that outside of the three inventors that we meet. There were references to a city with some fantastical name (an alternative version of a real world city?). There were references to a war, which if this is alternate history could be WWI. Mainly, it was just hard to get a feel of anything in regards to the world.
When it comes to characters, I was similarly unsatisfied. There aren’t any major failings with either Thomas or Jethro, but in a week’s time I won’t be able to remember their names. I think Thomas suffered from a weak backstory. He had no prior connections to any other characters, and aside from the laboratory fire, nothing in his past that seemed to have an impact on him in the present day. When it came to the eventual romantic relationship between Thomas and Jethro, I just didn’t really care. At least it didn’t actively annoy me, so there’s that.
The plot is incredibly weak. There should be some sense of urgency. After all, there’s an hourglass in Jethro’s workshop trickling away the time until the devil takes his soul. But instead the characters just amble around living their lives. And when it is time for Jethro’s soul to get taken (at the very end), the climax is completely unsatisfying. Warning for SPOILERS – nothing happens. Apparently the devil was just trying to teach him a life lesson. END SPOILERS.
On the good side, it was a quick read so I didn’t waste much time on it. There were also a few tentative moves towards thematic content regarding disability, and the book as a whole was pretty easy to read.
The Empty Hourglass was mostly boring and bland, and I would not recommend it.
I received a free ARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The book is released on April 9th 2016 by Riptide.