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Mechanical Heart

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Can you save someone who doesn’t know if she’s alive?

Breen lives locked away, separated from the world by the walls of her clock tower and the machine of gems, gears, and magic that replaces her heart. That is, until an unexpected visitor appears in her tower, offering a dangerous gift: freedom. His promises awaken hope for a life unbound by the tower walls — but she knows that if he learns about her heart, it’s only a matter of time before he turns on her.

Josiah is powerless. Though he’s the crown prince of the mighty Chanian empire, he feels stifled by his inability to protect his people from the schemes of corrupt nobles. When he discovers a girl trapped in a locked clock tower, he thinks he’s finally found a problem he can solve . . . but more than just walls keep her captive.

From the royal palace to the streets of Rivenford to the tops of clock towers, secrets hide around every corner in this steampunk retelling of Rapunzel. Breen and Josiah hold the keys to each other's struggles — if they can break down the barriers that divide them.

408 pages, Paperback

First published August 7, 2019

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About the author

Sarah Pennington

6 books98 followers
Sarah Pennington has been writing stories since before she actually knew how to write, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. She is perpetually in the middle of writing at least one or two novels, most of which are in the fantasy and fairy tale retelling genres. Sarah’s first published work, Blood in the Snow, received a perfect score and Special Unicorn status in Rooglewood Press’s Five Poisoned Apples contest. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys knitting, photography, and trying to conquer her massive to-be-read list.
Sarah can be found online at sarahpenningtonauthor.com. She also blogs at Light and Shadows (tpssaralightshadows.wordpress.com) and Dreams and Dragons (dreams-dragons.blogspot.com).

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Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews
Profile Image for Deborah O'Carroll.
460 reviews94 followers
August 7, 2019
THIS BOOK! I’ve been so excited for it and anxiously awaiting its release FOREVER and now it’s finally here and aaahhh! I. loved. it. The premise is the coolest ever: Steampunk Rapunzel in a clock tower. By one of my favorite authors. Um, yes please!

I was utterly hooked from the first chapter and I absolutely love this world, these characters, and the writing style!

The characters! I adored them. The story is really about friendships (instead of the expected romance—though to be honest, I will admit I was totally shipping people for some future time after the book. XD *cough*) which was pretty awesome! This little group of friends—I just love them! Especially the dynamics of the relationships, and how different they were.

Deaf characters and signing were an integral part of the story, which was fascinating! I loved how all of that played out—it was brilliant.

Also, the characters were so rational and actually thought things through instead of just dashing around being idiots, which was also different. XD (I mean, a few times I was all “I don’t care if that’s the rational choice—what about such-and-such a character and what if they diiiie? Noooo!” and I was on pins-and-needles wanting to know how it would turn out, but eheheh I never said I was a rational, just that they are. XD)

I . . . may have gotten super emotionally invested in these people and their story. :P

I got so WORRIED and it was kind of intense! O_O Even though a lot of it wasn’t exciting all the time, it was still so GRIPPING and and just absolutely fascinating and I couldn’t stop reading.

It was brilliantly written and I have no idea how the author did it, especially with all the politics. It was all so cool and mysterious and the plot worked together and just—I don’t know! It was awesome! Like clockwork fitting together effortlessly, all the little gear-pieces turning and bringing you leaping across between each plot element and threading through the different storylines. I loved the writing, and the story kept being unexpected, and it was just SO GOOD.

Josiah and his notebook! Okay, so Prince Josiah’s awesome and I love how he keeps track of everything in his notebook. It’s the best! :D And I have no clue how he makes speeches and navigates politics and also runs around being awesome investigating stuff and still has time to be a stellar friend and brother. (I honestly got mad at Breen for pushing him away because he’s just trying to help and he’s the best, okay!) Love him.

Breen is a broken cinnamon roll of awesome and I was sooo invested in her story and just wanted her to have a happy ending! *flails around* She was so great and unique and well-written and relatable and yeah, I loved her. Also, her inventing skills are fabulous, which makes me happy. :D

Grace is Josiah’s sister and you totally forget she’s a princess sometimes because she’s just so nice and outgoing and it’s awesome. :D She makes a fabulous friend and I also appreciated how, since she was deaf, that explained why Josiah is so good at signing and could therefore communicate with Breen. Because plot!

And there’s also Luis who fixes clocks and is the best-friend character and I LOVED him! He kept making me laugh but he wasn’t silly or anything, and his friendship with Josiah, and the girls, is the bessst. Everyone needs a Luis! And there were other characters (like Peter) who were also awesome.

THIS WORLD. I absolutely lived and breathed this world and felt so caught up in it! The steampunkery was awesome, and the dash of alchemy/magic/power-crystals that was a perfect blend of sciency/fantasy. And just the settings were so well-drawn, and the world and culture. The worldbuilding was absolutely fabulous and everything felt so incredibly well-thought-out and just WORKED. I totally want to come back to this world someday!

It’s so gorgeous but also has its shady, darker side, and the story doesn’t shy away from the tricky questions about life. The book is very full of secret plots and politics (sooo much debating and stuff, but it was fascinating) and moral dilemmas and all of that. Occasionally I had quibbles or just wanted everything to be okayyyy because my emotions did not sign up for this, but on the whole it was awesome. :P

The Rapunzel elements were fabulous but also didn’t take over the story, which was cool—it’s very much its own book, just built around the trappings of the Rapunzel story. (Also, the villains. UGH. Madame Gottling and co. are so chilling!)

I haven’t read nearly enough steampunk, and I was so thrilled to get to read this one! It reminds me a little of some others in the genre (like by H.L. Burke, though a large percentage of my steampunk reads have been from that author so far. XD) but is entirely its own thing as well. I loved-loved-loved the clocktowers and the clocks and inventions and gears and just all of the steampunk-ness! (Also, check out the clock images in the chapter headers. It took me awhile to notice, but LOOK AT THEM. You’ll see what I mean. *grins*)

I can’t stop thinking about this book! I’ve hardly finished it and it already feels like I’ve known this book forever—it just feels so classic and awesome and has already settled in on my steampunky-favorites mental list!

I’m definitely going to want this one on my shelf—and you need it there too!

Mechanical Heart is a stellar steampunk Rapunzel tale, full of politics and friendships and clocks and the most epic worldbuilding. I can’t wait to go back and visit!
I received a free e-ARC of this book for the blog tour and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Review originally posted with the blog tour here: https://thepagedreamer.wordpress.com/...
Profile Image for Kyle.
Author 42 books154 followers
August 7, 2019
A gripping and richly-detailed fantasy that kept me glued to the page until the very end. It's clearly a Rapunzel retelling, but it goes far beyond the typical fairy-tale retelling tropes to build a unique, fully-developed world and a cast of distinctive characters. I particularly liked the intricate magic system and the tasteful inclusion of characters whose deafness fit naturally into the story instead of being used as a plot device. Plus, heartwarming relationships and plot twists that literally made me gasp aloud. I'm eager to read more from this author.
Profile Image for H.S.J. Williams.
Author 6 books223 followers
February 14, 2021
Well, I always intended to review this, but now I can’t remember that review! But I will say this book was quite impressive! I went into it expecting a short romantic steampunk fairytale retelling, but what I got was a steampunk novel with heavy emphasis on politics and ethics with fantastic world-building.

Content: super clean, very light possible romance. Some sad minor character death.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
Author 7 books61 followers
October 1, 2019
First off, this review is severely overdue. I was supposed to have it done and published back in August when the Golden Braids collection books were set for publication. Many apologies to the author!

But seriously, folks. The Golden Braids collection has some of the most unique Rapunzel stories I have ever read. Five different books, with five different perspectives on the classic tale, all by five different authors. You will not regret picking up any of these books. Add them at once to your TBR list.

This book. THIS BOOK. It's sooo hard to review because there's so much there. I mean, all the Golden Braids books were awesome, but I think this one nudges out the others for my favorite. Let me see if I can explain why. Wish me luck. I'm still kinda having mental repercussions from finishing it.

Full review here: https://kiribeth.blogspot.com/2019/10...
Profile Image for C.B. Cook.
Author 6 books194 followers
August 8, 2019
I love a good fairytale retelling, and this book was no exception. Mechanical Heart is the first book I've been able to read by Sarah Pennington, but I've been following her blog for a long time, and I've been able to read some things she's written on there. Because of that, I was not at all surprised at how much I loved this book! The world was absolutely amazing and so well developed, and I couldn't put the book down.

[Probably some minor SPOILERS below, so if you want to read this book without knowing anything about the plot... just go buy it!]

The plot itself wasn't necessarily fast-paced or full of action that keeps you reading, but it was more suspense-driven. There was so much character development, and I loved getting to know these characters, especially Breen and Josiah. I also really liked the approach the author took to the characters' interactions in the clock tower. Grace provided a great contrast to Josiah as well, and I loved that the little sister was taking over. That played into the plot so well. (I'm trying so hard to avoid spoilers...) The tension with Madame and my own questions kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the book. While I guessed some of the plot twists ahead of time, I was still surprised by a lot of things, which was awesome.

Breen was probably my absolute favorite. I loved having a deaf main character, and the author handled that aspect of Breen's character so well... plus it plays into the story in an important way later on. Her development really tugged at my heart, too. Basically, she's awesome and the best and I want to give her a hug. <3

Josiah was also pretty awesome. I loved his character arc too, and I also loved that he did his own research throughout the story. He wasn't a typical stuck-up noble, but you can also see that he has his shortcomings, too. He was a really well-rounded character, and I would love to see more of both him and Breen. :D

There's not anything I really disliked about the book. There were a lot of senate/government meetings, but they provided important information and tied in really well with the rest of the plot, so they weren't boring. There's also a lot of magic and alchemy, if that's something that concerns you.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review, but all opinions and comments are my own.
Profile Image for Lemon.
132 reviews25 followers
May 15, 2020
Honestly...wow.

Positives: Wow...just...nice. The setting, the steampunk background (that genre has definitely impressed me so far), the DEPTH of every character, the formation of such strong friendships, the conclusion of the plot, and just...it was all done so well. The Christian themes were presented in a way that showed the author's beliefs, yes, but in relation to the characters and not to their own self (tricky to have a God-figure in magical worlds and the author did this well). The more leisurely pacing as also done well (writing and all better than last) and I didn't find that anything dragged for too long, especially considering most everything was relevant to the plot. And the resolution of the entire thing (and hopefully invitations for sequels? I could see sequels happening...) was done perfectly.

Negatives: I don't know...it was all very tightly woven. Everyone had his or her depth, though...the villains weren't super explained much. Perhaps that's me (hehe) but I don't remember the exact motivations behind our villains besides wanting to continue their work...why exactly they turned to that, I suppose it was for power - but if it was for that, then their motivation WAS explained well through other means (the theme of power being harmful to human nature was shown, that is). Can't think of a negative that isn't an opinion, really...perhaps some may get frustrated that they know everything but our characters don't? I just think it's a testament for how we're made to want the protagonists to suceed.

Opinion: So everything was so well-woven! Seriously, I loved this version of Rapunzel - think it's one of the best ones I've read so far. For the negative opinions that I had, they were mostly minor. One was just that I wish other character's flaws had been thrown in their faces by good people like our male protagonists' flaws were (if that makes sense). And another was that I wanted more background for the villains as aforementioned, though it wasn't strictly necessary (ah, wishes). HOWEVER, I still LOVED the book and I LOVED the explanation of magic and the combination of exposition and showingness (that's a word) that flowed through the narrative.

I'm pretty sure Josiah was my favorite character, the poor antsy, obsessive, but in the end good-hearted boy. :))) The other characters were wonderful as well, though, and I don't think I disliked anyone (at least overall, sometimes I did not-like them, :P). And can we take a moment to appreciate how the author found it was important for our Rapunzel to have more friends and not just one? BECAUSE YES, THANK YOU!

Content: Just some violence, gets a bit dark but it's not gory. Psychological abuse and other emotionally draining things happen but it's all handled tastefully.

Now...to wait for a sequel if it happens? :D
Profile Image for Merenwen Inglorion.
245 reviews42 followers
June 20, 2020
I'm always conflicted when I finish a good book, and sit down to write a review. Do I start with the characters? The setting? The twists?
Characters will do for now, because they were my favorite part of it. Luis, in particular; he's a wonderfully pointed, sarcastic side character. Grace should receive mention as well, as she's a sweet character--with backbone (that isn't to say she "kicks butt" or anything like that, but she's firm, clever, and knows how to deal with people)!

Josiah, brother to Grace, is a knight in shining armor. Or rather, he wants to be. He's frustrated with his inability to make wide, sweeping changes that benefit the masses, and is stuck with sloughing through political mazes. Which he does remarkably, I must say.
Breen is a captive, but she's far from helpless. She figures things out on her own, and isn't ready to accept help/spill her story right away. When it comes to fiction, I typically ignore this flaw in characters (accepting help a tad too hastily), as it tends to be a staple in fiction, and I understand that most authors want their story to move along. A common problem with having a character come off as reluctant is the fear of dragging the story and making readers lose interest. With this story, the reluctance gave everything a bit of flavor! It forced other characters to react, heightened the suspense, and made the friendships all the richer for having stuck through the trials.
Speaking of trials, there are:
Determined antagonists (kind of obvious to the reader, not so to the characters, as the readers get to see the antagonists behind their facades).
Fears.
Doubts.
Politics.
Alchemy.
Never a dull moment to be had.

Miscellany things I loved: The accuracy of the sign language (it's written in the style of regular speech, but the visible interactions--emphasis on facial expressions, etc--are spot-on). Breen's reluctance for help. It was just the right amount of stubborn. Also, the banter between Luis and Josiah; the friendly needling, sarcasm, advice.

And you can see the cover, right?

All in all, this is a wonderful book to read. Oh, might I add: the steampunk element isn't terribly heavy--mostly aesthetic, with fantasy elements--so there isn't anything to get confused by if you don't often read steampunk.
Profile Image for Grace T.
810 reviews5 followers
July 19, 2019
RTC after release date (since that's what someone else is doing and idk the proper policies xD). Definitely enjoyed it, though!
Profile Image for Mary Emma Sivils.
236 reviews13 followers
January 16, 2021
Well-written and engaging, Mechanical Heart was worth the read! I had fun with the steampunk qualities of this Rapunzel retelling, and the characters were solid.
At times, I did struggle to get through the scenes that dealt with Chania's politics. Because of the plot, those scenes were necessary, but I could have used some more excitement in between to break up the slower pace of politics.
This was my first time reading anything by Sarah Pennington, but I hope to enjoy more from her in the future!
Profile Image for Brie Donning.
96 reviews
September 3, 2019
Heartbreaking

This is the story of a girl is pain, who sees herself as not even alive.

Hopeful

She’s found in this half life, given friendship, and ultimately the chance to save herself and others.

Excellent writing

I won’t say this book has no flaws, it’s the creation of a human. But Ican make no complaints. The world and characters feel real, the dialogue is skillful, the plot drew me along.

Clever characters

There’s clever characters of several kinds. Breen and Luis are both brilliant at creating things. Grace is emotionally intelligent. Josiah is great at coordinating, acting decisively, and getting to the bottom of a matter. There’s also plenty of cleverness coming from the villains.

No romance thread

I have no problem with romance in stories. But they don’t all need it, and i love how this story deals with other relationships. Some people would have tried to include a romance, and that would just be a distraction from everything else.

Compassionate characters

The thing I admire Josiah most for is his strong desire to help everyone he can. He doesn’t always go about it the best way, and might care a little much at the start about being the hero, but he cares. Grace cares. Luis is laid back, but he cares. And Breen despite living alone for so long has such a heart for the well being of others.

Deaf and mute characters

I’m not one to talk about diversity and inclusiveness much, but i love how this story dealt with people who are different; There’s several deaf characters and I think Sarah did a wonderful job of portraying them

All up, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it for those who like steampunk, stories about royalty, or stories about oppressed people.

Content rating: Safe for teens. There’s some violence and some discussion of blood and injuries.
Profile Image for Kathryn McConaughy.
Author 2 books16 followers
August 9, 2019
Mechanical Heart is a Rapunzel/Hunchback of Notre Dame retelling in a steampunk world. It has an engaging world, political maneuvering, and colorful magic, but the real strength of this story is definitely in the characters. I love their voices. Luis is probably my favorite, whether he’s helplessly trying to keep Josiah from doing Yet Another Crazy Thing or he’s inventing something to save the day. He tries to be the voice of reason, but he’s such a faithful friend that he lets Josiah drag him into all sorts of trouble.
Breen is also great. She’s very stubborn, and even though her situation is difficult she doesn’t let herself drown in angst. I love the scene at the beginning when she just refuses to talk to Josiah, because she doesn’t want to lie but doesn’t think he will leave if he hears the truth. And she’s clever, an inventor in her own right and a force to be reckoned with.
Other high points: Parliamentary debates about legalizing blood alchemy. (If you like both fantasy and politics you’ll see why I enjoy these.) Josiah wrestling with everything he does. (When you first meet him you think he’s overbearing… and he is, but he’s also engaging and unintentionally funny.)
If you’re a fan of steampunk, nineteenth century politics, friendship, or convoluted magic plots, you’ll enjoy this book!
10 reviews
January 22, 2022
Stunning!

What a wonderful read! The world setting is unique and well fleshed out, the characters are believable and engaging, the magic and steampunk elements are well-structured and easy to understand while still being intriguing. I loved all the characters and didnt have any trouble rooting for them.

Sarah Pennington does an excellent job addressing both dramatic tension and bits of lighthearted humor to make a story that flows well and carries itself through to the end. And I dont always get engaged by political subplots, but she did a very good job addressing the government scenes and sensitive issues (like the struggles faced by deaf and disabled people) without feeling heavyhanded. The victories feel like they were worked for and not just handed to the characters.

Honestly, you dont even have to know the story Rapunzel to enjoy this as its own story, but I like how the premises were weaved in so you can recognize them if you know what to look for! I highly recommend reading this if you like fantasy, steampunk, alchemy, or just a really well-written story.
Profile Image for Caryl.
1,320 reviews26 followers
March 16, 2021
Mechanical Heart is a magical blend of steampunk and fantasy. I was immediately immersed in the story. The twists and turns kept me turning the pages. It's a quick and clean read.

Recommend to readers who enjoy steampunk.

I borrowed a copy from Kindle Unlimited. All views expressed are my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Kim  Gregory.
1,016 reviews11 followers
September 2, 2019
I didn't realize it at first, but I was reading two of Sarah Pennington's stories at the same time; both very different from one another, and both very good.

This story is about a group of people who want to use something that could be good for their own ends, and they don't care how they get it. Breen is one of the people who is "benefitting" from the blood magic, it is keeping her mechanical heart going - but she is nothing more than a slave to those who "helped" her. In clock towers all over the kingdom, others are in slavery as well because those who want blood magic to be legalized have used them as guinea pigs, replacing parts of their bodies with mechanics that run on crystals powered by blood.

The Prince isn't sure about blood magic and does his own investigation, discovering Breen in the clock tower and finding out more than he ever imagined was happening.

Breen is a great character, very complex. She keeps her fire, but is so beaten down that at times it seems that fire will be snuffed completely. When the Prince comes to her clock tower, at first she is frightened because he wants to save her and she is sure she can't be saved, but over time hope creeps in.

This is a clean read.
Profile Image for Jenelle.
Author 14 books171 followers
December 22, 2020
A steampunk fairy tale about friendship and learning to trust, this story made me forget it was a Rapunzel retelling until I was almost finished with it. I loved the world, the characters, and the story. The suspense kept me on the edge of my seat a few times, and the adventure kept me reading for several nights long after I ought to have turned out my light.

Recommended for fans of Rapunzel retellings and steampunk fantasy.
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