Review: Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Title: Ticker
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Genre: steampunk, scifi, young adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 275
Published: December 1 2014
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

A girl with a clockwork heart must make every second count.

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.

I had a lot of fun with Ticker. I raced through it in under three hours and was hugely amused and entertained nearly the entire time. Sure, it's not a perfect novel and the romance is a little bit too much too fast, but between Penny, Marcus, Nic and all the steampunkery, Lisa Mantchev has made this a memorable and highly engaging read. With just enough flair and retrofitted technology and just enough spirit and witty retorts, Ticker is great introduction to steampubnk if you've never read it before or a perfect new read for fans of the genre looking for Gail Carriger-esque humor and creativity.

I am not one that is much for highlighting passages in my kindle, but I did it for Ticker no less than four times. And that is down to main character and all-around BAMF Penelope Aurelia Farthing. She has spirit, stubbornness, intelligence, arrogance, and more. Even while dealing with a lot of grief with the loss of both her sisters, one of which had a fiance who turned evil and is the antagonist of the story, Penny shines. She is the kind of girl who says things like, "I can't see where I am going if I only look where I have been, my good man!" as she nearly runs someone over.  (My other favorite was "Come, come Mister Stirling, don't tell me your soul quails at a bit of subterfuge and espionage!") Her characterization is fantastic throughout the story. She is a whole, complete version of a person, made up messy parts (sometimes metal ones) and she makes mistakes. But Mantchev has crafted a great protagonist and allows her to a complex woman.

The secondary characters are nearly as good as Penelope. Penny's twin brother Nic is also allowed to be human -- he's a good person, but not infallible. He makes mistakes, he fights with his sister, but his love for her is evident. Violet, Penny's best friend, was not as defined as the Farthing siblings, but her stalwart attitude and readiness for fisticuffs quickly endeared her to me. Marcus, the Legatus, was another pleasant surprise. He was much more than he first appeared and I appreciated how Mantchev slowly allowed more pieces of his personality to emerge throughout the novel. I do wish that the Farthings' friend Sebastian had been more rounded -- for much of the novel all we know about him is that he's a gentleman and a gambler.

Similarly, the antagonist wasn't as present throughout the novel as I would have liked. While he carries a palpable tension and menace into the book and the scenes he is in -- with his bombings and murders and kidnappings and mindcontrolling - he's still pretty one-note as a character. The author does give him a bit more to work with late in the novel, but it's not enough to make him more than a pretty generic villain. But! If he is imperfect at his presentation, he's also smart, capable, and more than a fair match for Penny. Their personal tete-a-tete, rife with history and pain, is played out in an actiontastic novel but the scenes with just the two of them matching wits packed just as much of a punch.

With a few well-planned twists and plenty of steampunk goodness, Ticker was just madcap fun. It was clever, it was creative, it was full of shippy goodness and it entertained me completely for the duration. It's a standalone and while I am glad that not every new release is a series opener, I am sad to leave this world and these characters behind. I also know that I am now making getting to Mantchev's other books a priority because this was an excellent introduction to her work.


  1. Here's the deal - if a book delivers solid characters (main and secondary) like this one seems to, I can forgive a whole lot plot wise. This sounds like a fun read! Thanks for putting it on my radar!

  2. I'm a little unsure about this but....that cover looks fun as hell!


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