3 of 5 stars
“Avtomats” are a race of clockwork beings. They have “lived” side by side with humans for millenia but they are warring with each other and their numbers are dwindling. The Avtomats can be very sophisticated, with technology that gives them the appearance of breathing, even crying in order that they fit in.
In the Russian court of 1725, two “avtomats”, a male and female, were restored and became favourites of the Tsar but when the Tsar died, they had to flee St. Petersburg. They declined to seek out more of their kind, and we then follow them through the next 250 years, having to live in secret, avoiding some of their kind that would destroy them. Ultimately, they get pulled into a war within their race of beings.
In present day, June, an anthropology student who specializes in antique mechanical antiquities, finds an antique robotic female doll. She extracts an artifact from the heart area and manages to restart the robot. She herself has an old artifact that her grandfather gave her. He came into possession of it during a WWII battle where he encountered what he believed to be a robotic soldier. Her artifact, which is the “soul” of the avtomat, turns out to be something that’s wanted by a lot of people. Or Avtomats as it turns out. She is rescued by one of them and begins a journey that will take her around the world and land her in danger.
I found this new world and the avtomats in it fascinating. While sometimes inconsistencies niggled and confused me (how can a robot smell if it can’t breathe? how could it know what is a good smell or a bad one? It seemed like these beings shouldn’t have emotions and yet they do at times. ) overall the detail and the adventure was pretty good.
Another inconsistency was that it seemed to be implied that the avtomats could be found among modern day society, there were even “safe” places where they could go for repairs yet at the end, we are told there are only dozens of them left in the whole world after killing each other off to gain their “anima”, which is that artifact in their “heart” that provides them with their power source and “soul”. There were some plot points that weren’t explained or that were inconsistent but I did enjoy the story, alternating in current day and through Peter and Elena’s timeline. I do think Peter and Elena were far more interesting as characters than June, who was the catalyst for the storyline but didn’t have much character development at all.
The book had it’s strong points and overall, a good read.