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Author: Paul Witcover
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Bantam Press

Book Description from the publisher:
Tempus Rerum Imperator: Time, Emperor of All Things

1758. England is embroiled in a globe-spanning conflict that stretches from her North American colonies to Europe and beyond. Across the Channel, the French prepare for an invasion ? an invasion rumored to be led by none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie. It seems the map of Europe is about to be redrawn. Yet behind these dramatic scenes, another war is raging – a war that will determine not just the fate of nations but of humanity itself…

Daniel Quare is a journeyman in an ancient guild, The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. He is also a Regulator, part of an elite network within the guild devoted to searching out and claiming for England’s exclusive use any horological innovation that could give them an upperhand, whether in business or in war.

Just such a mission has brought Quare to the London townhouse of eccentric collector, Lord Wichcote. He seeks a pocket watch rumoured to possess seemingly impossible properties that are more to do with magic than with any science familiar to Quare or to his superiors. And the strange
timepiece has attracted the attention of others as well: the mysterious masked thief known only as Grimalkin, and a deadly French spy who stop at nothing to bring the prize back to his masters. Soon Quare finds himself on a dangerous trail of intrigue and murder that leads far from the world he knows into an otherwhere of dragons and demigods, in which nothing is as it seems . . . time least of all.

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Be prepared for lush, evocative language that makes you want to linger on the page, hesitant to turn to the next just so you can savor it. Paul Witcover’s prose is poetic and beautiful. I fell so deeply in love with the language, with the construction of his sentences that I almost forgot to read the story. Almost. There is a STORY here. A great one really. One that has you as riveted and extraordinarily fascinated with the workings of clocks.

“The ticking of so many timepieces, no two synchronized, filled the space with a facsimile of whispered conversation, as if some ghostly parliament were meeting in the dead of night.”

The fantastical England Wicote writes of is completely wonderful, an 18th century England that you completely believe in. You could swear you read about the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in a long-forgotten history book and you’ll be scratching your head wondering just where. It is the kind of book that grabs you and makes you a part of its world. It’s clever, intricate and maddening in its twists and turns, as mazelike as the tunnels Quare is led through under the streets.
The characters are fascinating. A grey-clad mysterious figure called Grimalkin; Lord Wichote, Master Magnus, servants of the Worshipful Company; all are intriguing, persuasive and secretive; as secretive as the strange timepiece that has untold power. It is all so convoluted, but not in a good way. In a way it reminded me of George R.R. Martin – not in style or plot (quick before someone kills me) but in that there is so much intrigue, untold mysteries, treachery and betrayal. Who can our hero (or is he our hero?) trust? What, exactly is going on and who are the good guys? For someone like me that usually guesses an ending, this book kept me on my toes and I’m dying for the sequel. In the meantime, I’ll go back and re-read those glorious passages I marked, the ones where seemingly normal, little words line up into these lovely little sentences and make me sigh for how well-crafted they are like this one.

“Candles set in wall sconces cast a murky, tremulous light, like moonlight sifting into a sunken ship.”

Or perhaps Master Magnus giving one of the best set downs I’ve read in quite a long while:

”Steady, Mr. Grimsby – steady, on sir, he said as if to comfort the apprentice, who was Quare’s junior by two years. ‘I have read the reports of your work dispatched to me by your good master here. Amidst so much tedious verbiage, one word leaps out, and I find it so apt that I have already employed it in reference to you myself and about to do so again. That word, if you cannot guess it, is steady. Your hands are steady, you are as dependable and dull as a bullock, destined, I have no doubt, for a life of plodding but honourable labour in the fields of time, much like Master Halsted himself. Of such as you is the backbone of our guild – and, indeed, our country – constituted, and I salute you, sir,, most sincerely, in your majestic mediocrity.”

That paragraph alone should make you want to buy the book. It’s absolutely priceless. Trust me, you’ll be fascinated and waiting impatiently, like me, for the sequel.
Bravo Mr. Witcover!

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review via NetGalley, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

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