When Penny Farthing nearly dies, brilliant surgeon Calvin Warwick manages to implant a brass “Ticker” in her chest, transforming her into the first of the Augmented. But soon it’s discovered that Warwick killed dozens of people as he strove to perfect another improved Ticker for Penny, and he’s put on trial for mass murder.
On the last day of Warwick’s trial, the Farthings’ factory is bombed, Penny’s parents disappear, and Penny and her brother, Nic, receive a ransom note demanding all of their Augmentation research if they want to see their parents again. Is someone trying to destroy the Farthings…or is the motive more sinister?
Desperate to reunite their family and rescue their research, Penny and her brother recruit fiery baker Violet Nesselrode, gentleman-about-town Sebastian Stirling, and Marcus Kingsley, a young army general who has his own reasons for wanting to lift the veil between this world and the next. Wagers are placed, friends are lost, romance stages an ambush, and time is running out for the girl with the clockwork heart.
Ticker throws you headfirst into a world filled with remarkable technology and Victorian sensibilities. It was a bit overwhelming at first, as neither the gadgets nor the world-building were explained; rather, readers were expected to piece it together bit by bit through the character’s actions and descriptions. Once I got past that, though, Ticker was a very smooth read. Its world was incredibly intricate and creative, making me wish more than once that I could see pictures of it in its mechanical glory.
Our heroine, Penny, was intelligent, competent, and somewhat snarky, making for a very entertaining narration. Her love for her family and friends shone through her every action, and I really admired her willingness to do anything for them – even if her bold plans tended to border on recklessness. Of course, even without these traits, her love for chocolate, cake and sweets would have immediately endeared her to me; after all, those are the three important food groups in my books.
The secondary characters were very diverse, from Violet, the baker with BAKE CAKE tattooed on her knuckles, to Marcus, the charming military leader. They had unique voices and captured my heart in different ways, though I can’t help but wish they were a bit more fleshed out so that they could stand on their own (instead of relative to Penny).
The romance can best be described as love at first sight. While I would have preferred a slow-burn romance that started towards the end of the book, there’s no denying that the romance was rather cute. Marcus was an absolute sweetheart and a gentleman, and I enjoyed the shy/awkward/tentative interactions that he and Penny had.
Overall, despite the few aspects of Ticker that didn’t quite work for me, I really enjoyed my foray into this steampunk-and-cake-filled world.
I received an ARC from Skyscape and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.