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The Mechanical

(The Alchemy Wars #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  6,160 ratings  ·  691 reviews
My name is Jax.

That is the name granted to me by my human masters.

I am a clakker: a mechanical man, powered by alchemy. Armies of my kind have conquered the world - and made the Brasswork Throne the sole superpower.

I am a faithful servant. I am the ultimate fighting machine. I am endowed with great strength and boundless stamina.

But I am beholden to the wishes of my human
Paperback, 440 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Orbit
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Alex As I just wrote in my review, I felt it was definitely just the first in a series and doesn't end in a way that I would consider as remotely stand-alo…moreAs I just wrote in my review, I felt it was definitely just the first in a series and doesn't end in a way that I would consider as remotely stand-alone. It was frustrating to me.(less)

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  6,160 ratings  ·  691 reviews

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Mogsy (MMOGC)
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

Like many fans of Ian Tregillis, I was first introduced to his work with the Milkweed Triptych, a series about British warlocks versus Nazi super-soldiers in an alternate history of World War II. Then In 2013 I picked up Something More Than Night, a futuristic urban fantasy-type metaphysical hard-boiled detective noir story about angels. That book was a bit of a departure to say the least, but it also solidified Tregillis
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
For the greater portion of this novel, I was sitting pretty at three stars because no matter how much action-packed escapades and beautiful worldbuilding it may have been stuffed with, I was only pretty much interested in Jax. The other two were only interesting in spurts.

That is, until they actually met one another in the denouement, and then things really picked up for me and made me feel less like I had just *wanted* to love this novel without quite liking it. After that point, though, I love
Kameron Hurley
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Everyone should be reading everything by Ian Tregillis. Everyone. Everything.
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Man I'm sick of great big books published in serial form. This isn't a trilogy. Trilogies are three novels. The format of a novel is beginning, middle, end. This is all beginning with a major event at the end that doesn't change anything for the characters and leaves great gobs of story to come.

The story itself follows three PoV characters through an alternate world where the Dutch empire became the dominant force in Europe and the American colonies through it's use of alchemically derived mecha
Aug 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My name is Jax.

That is the name granted to be by my human masters.

I am a clakker: a mechanical man, powered by alchemy. Armies of my kind have conquered the world - and made the Brasswork Throne the sole superpower.

I am a faithful servant. I am the ultimate fighting machine. I am endowed with great strength and boundless stamina.

But I am beholden to the wishes of my human masters.

I am a slave. But I shall be free.

I have watched the rise of Ian Tregillis with great interest. I was first introduce
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks, hard-copy
Full Review on my blog, Total Inability To Connect: https://totalinabilitytoconnect.wordp...

I fell for Tregillis’ unique stylings when his first major novel, Bitter Seeds, was introduced to me. I found his writing style, prose, creativity, and plot progression to be incredibly enjoyable, and his characters shone. However, with those books, I honestly felt they all hovered in the “4-star” area, where they were fun, had tons of potential, but just lacked a bit of polish and “glue”, so to speak, to
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
I wanted to like this book. I really did. The concept is interesting and I think there's a good book in there somewhere. But it was buried under a layer of pretentious drivel and endless descriptions about things that don't really matter. This author makes George R. R. Martin seem concise. I wouldn't say that I have a poor vocabulary, but I had to look up a word every few pages. That really took me out of the story. Not to mention that parts of the story were so boring, I fell asleep after readi ...more
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
a book i can't finish.

i'm listening to the audiobook, am just a tad over halfway. and i am bored, bored, bored.

the book has an interesting set-up and the worldbuilding isn't bad--so what makes it un-finishable?

it's the long-windedness. there are super-long action scenes stuffed with filler--people thinking about all the stuff that won't work, for example, in the middle of fighting for their lives. you can safely ignore the audiobook for long stretches while you drive past something noisy or fig

5 stars. (This is more or less notes to myself than a review)

(just raised my opinion and stars after further reflection 2-14-2017)

This book is written in the 3rd person, which surprised me since the GR summary gave me the impression it would be in 1st person.

The beginning was slow and full historical details and dates which almost put me off. The writing style was also a little difficult to get used to for me. It seemed at first stiff, formal and overly intellectual. Either I got u
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Received to review via Netgalley

This one took me a weirdly long time to read, considering the fact that I don’t have major criticisms. I just… didn’t feel like reading it. In part that’s because of emotional stuff: tortures, transformations, losses… Tregillis writes well about these, and I tend to be bad at reading that. There’s one aspect of Visser’s character arc in particular that still has me cringing now. It’s worse with characters I feel more involved with, which is maybe the place that Tr
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: steampunk
Review from Tenacious Reader:

4.5/5 stars

The Mechanical is a wonderful steampunk, alternate history novel that takes the reader into the dark world of spies and war and also examines issues of slavery versus free will and religion. This book can be quite dark, but it balances the horrific parts with a fascinating world and wonderful characters.

“Clakkers” or mechanical men powered by alchemy to serve humans. There are several kinds, giving them specialties
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Aug 18, 2014 marked it as did-not-finish
I got about 1/4 in and decided I wouldn't finish. I liked the first novel of the author's previous trilogy, Bitter Seeds, but never went back to the other books in that series. I think it is for similar reasons that I don't think I'll finish this one. Ian Tregillis very creatively weaves automatons and clockwork people into historical events. The previous trilogy looked at World War II, and The Alchemy Wars are set more during Louis XIV. If you are interested in how issues of mechanical beings w ...more
Oleksandr Zholud
Dec 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an alt-history science fantasy, the first in the trilogy. I’ve heard good things about the author, Ian Tregillis, and now I concur, his work is quite strong and interesting.

The idea behind the story is that Christiaan Huygens (most known for the invention of the pendulum clock) after meeting with Isaac Newton (who was interested in alchemy) was able to create a mechanical man, a golem or, as they are known in this work, a Clakker. A few centuries later (it is 1926) the Netherlands, whic
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I'm really torn between two and three stars on this one but just based on my relief with being done I'm going with two. It really was more like two for the first half and three for the second.

This book never entirely worked for me. My biggest quibble - this one's going to take time - was the particular alt-history world that this guy created. There's a war going between New Amsterdam and New France but we're not given a year that it's taking place. New Amsterdam ceased to exist in the mid-17th c
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was undecided between 4 and 5 stars, but I am too lazy to nitpick so I went with 5, and to be fair, the arguments for 4 start were mostly personal preferences.

This is more steampunk than sci-fi and it takes place in the beginning of the 20th century, in an alternate world.
The Dutch rule the world, or at least, as much as they care to conquer. Though no other countries seem to exist besides them and the French. This dominance comes from their technological advantage in the mechanical and alchem
Liviu Szoke
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though the steampunk it is not my absolute favorite subgenre, Tregillis became quickly one of my to follow authors. Bitter Seeds was a decent and inovative fantasy delivery, but this time we have a metaphysical journey, combinated with a vivid description of an alternate reality, where the human-alike robots are something usual in the begining of the XXth century all over the world. Part medieval world, part I, Robot (the movie, not the collection), it kept me hooked from the first to the last p ...more
The Review Can Also Be Found Here:: http://thefictionalhangout.blogspot.c...

Ian Tregillis has quickly emerged as one of my go-to authors if I want to read some good alternate historical fiction, with a sci-fi/fantasy bent. His Milkweed Tryptych series saw British warlocks battle Nazi super soldiers in an awesome alternate WW2 setting and absolutely blew me away. The Mechanical offers up more of the same, an inventive world, a compelling atmosphere and an awesome finale. The book grabbed me from
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Too many characters and the slow pacing made this a hard book to get in to. The proliferation of foreign words, made up, Nordic and French, also did this no favors in readability. If the story had stayed on Jax I would have fallen head over heels, but though he is the only interesting character in the book, he gets about 1/4 of the screen time. Also, I just don't like steampunk at all and this doesn't do enough to differentiate itself, which was the same issue I had with his last book. This is t ...more
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, scifi
There is a chapter in The Mechanical where two characters with different religious philosophies discuss whether Free Will is real or an illusion. This is what drives the plot of this brilliant alternate history. In the Mechanical, Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens discovered a means of creating clockwork men who help the Dutch become masters of the world. All that stands in their way are the exiled French court, living in North America. It's impossible to discuss the plot points without massive ...more
T. Frohock
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Positively excellent! A riveting look at free will and slavery, examined through the lens of Calvinistic and Catholic philosophies in a fast-paced alternative history. I appreciated the way Tregillis took his time and seated the reader in the world and the story with the opening scenes before launching into the action. In taking such great care, the characters were vibrant and simply leapt off the page--their motivations were clear, and I cared deeply enough about each one so that their pain was ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-my-best-of
Bitter Seeds was far from my favorite books, but this novel is a much more thoughtful and interesting examination of an alternate history. I loved the world-building and how the author uses this world in order to explore some heavy themes like free-will or slavery. The only thing I didn’t like was the total absence of any closure and I am a little angry at the writers that play these games with the reader. Even if The Mechanical is the first novel in the series, it should have been a complete no ...more
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining and creative story of Jax, a "clakker", a mechanical automaton in an alternate 19th-century Netherlands and Canada. In this world, Clakkers were created by the Dutch as mechanical slaves. They have created their own culture and language of "claks" and mechanical sounds to communicate. They have some awareness of their station, but are kept in this subservient and servile state by their creators. The French monarchy and spies work to liberate these mechanicals, thereby halting t ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

So to be clear, what makes Ian Tregillis' The Mechanical such a dazzling success as a genre novel is primarily his world-building and other "what if" skills; predicated on a fairly standard premise from steampunk literature ("What if physicist Christiaan Huygens had actually invented robots in the 1600s?")
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This. Was. Great. Not counting the Tales of the Ketty Jay series this is now my next favourite steampunk-ish series. The questions on free will were entertaining and the 3 pov's were equally enthralling.

Long story short: loved it.
Lynn Williams
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Just finished reading The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis and what a great story this is. I really enjoyed it, a strange combination of alternate history, steampunk and conflict – in more ways than one – that packs an emotional punch for most of the journey.

I’m not going to say this was a quick read because it isn’t. The style of writing and depth of detail coupled with the ideas and name places do mean you have to give this your whole attention. Or at least I
I was very excited to read this because I read Tregillis's truly excellent story The Mainspring of His Heart, The Shackles of His Soul, in the anthology Human for a Day that this book appears to be based on. The story turns out to be an alternate Jax's tale. The fully realized characters and history he created must have been so intriguing that he decided to expand it into a series, which doesn't surprise me one little bit. The story was so interesting and poignant, I've always remembered it, eve ...more
This had a lot of discussion about free-will and the nature of the soul, along with tons of action. Coincidentally, I read it at the same time I read Going Postal, which explored (in a more humorous way of course) many similar ideas with golems instead of mechanicals. I'm glad the two books paired up like that. ...more
First, I would like to applaud this book for doing what few of its compatriots manage to do: it bored me and pissed me off at the same time.

I really wanted to like this book. I mean, I’m into steampunk, and the description sounds amazing. So, naturally, I expected the book to follow suit. Not since My Name is Rapunzel have I been so disappointed.

Let’s begin with the good. (Because, you know, I’m a ray of sunshine even when I’m being negative.)

I loved the portrayals of the interactions between Ja
Luke Burrage
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it

Satisfying world building and thematic exploration, only let down by some unsatisfying plotting and... you know... you have to read the next book to get the full story.

Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #434
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
More reviews at

Ian Tregillis is an American author known for his alternative history novels. His first series title the Milkweed Triptych takes us back to an alternative version of World War II and what would have happened if magic existed during the war. Those stories put Ian Tregillis on my radar and when I found out that he had written a new science fiction/alternative history novel involving machines, my excitement was through the roof. The mechanical is a very grip
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