When we reached the end
of the bridge in the sky, we
saw a lighthouse with
its fire put out,
just in time to see a ship
dash against the rocks.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed Cogheart. It has an interesting plot with many twists and turns and its characters are, on the whole, engaging.
Cogheart takes place in an alternative Steampunk Victorian Britain with mechanicals and mechanimals (which is just a delightful pun). The worldbuilding is superb, although the exposition is a little clunky in parts. It is obvious that Bunzl has taken great care to build a coherent world in which to set his tale. The rich world also gives way to incredibly interesting discussions between various characters about the nature of the soul and the rights of mechanicals, which greatly appealed to my philosophical side. There are, however, certain details which are hinted at but not given over the course of Cogheart, which obviously serve the purpose of hinting what is to come in subsequent entries in the series. While there is nothing wrong with doing this, I find such sequel-baiting irritating when it so obvious.
The plot also contains some cliché plot points, but there is enough originality in the premise, the plot, and the storytelling that these can be easily forgiven. Another gripe I would take with the plot is a small plot hole very early in the novel, when Lily doesn’t recognise the accent of someone when eavesdropping on them despite her already knowing that person. I did not, however, detect any other such inconsistencies, but I feel that this could have been easily fixed.
In terms of the writing itself, Cogheart is very easy to read and the story is told clearly and concisely. Vary rarely is unnecessary detail given, except for two occasions. Two different characters tell stories of previous events – one in Chapter 12 and one in Chapter 18. These stories are told through dialogue but read like prose. It seems unlikely that someone telling a story to someone else would, for example, say that they ‘opened the box in amazement’. I feel that these sections could have either been rewritten to have more organic dialogue, or else as flashback scenes.
Similarly, the characters are very well-written and well-rounded – again, with a single exception. The main antagonist of the novel is very cliché, to the point where their motivations seem unrealistic. They act in ways that seem contrary to how they have previously been portrayed for seemingly no other reason than to solidify that they are the villain the reader’s mind. What starts off as an interesting villain becomes sadly one-dimensional in the final act. Yet for all that the villain loses dimensions, one secondary character (who shan’t be named for spoiler reasons) gains in them. It is clear that the reader is meant to sympathise and agree with this character, but they are portrayed in a ‘grey’ moral light. By the end of the novel, I could both sympathise with the motivations behind their actions but also did not agree with what they did. This character is very well-written, probably the most well-written of the entire cast, and it is unfortunate that the villain is the least well-written and, in the end, lacks depth.
On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cogheart. I hope to read the rest of the series someday. I am fascinated by the world Bunzl has created and the characters he has placed within it. This is a story I am not done with yet, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.
While Sally was walking on her lonesome, she found a fence blocking off a sheer cliff face. A sign hanging off the wood declared it brittle and hazardous. She’d never connected with anything quite so much before.