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Manga Review: 'The Clockwork Sky' by Madeleine Rosca

Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

Artist and Writing: Madeleine Rosca

Letters: Tom Orzechowski

Book Trailer (click here)

Otaku devotee Madeleine Rosca is Australian, inspired by such works as Akira, Samurai Pizza Cats, and Astroboy, became a manga artist several years ago. She started with what was supposed to be a children's book called Hollow Fields (which is successful and has won her awards, by the way), and now is working on the series A Clockwork Sky and even a web comic.

I'm not familiar with Hollow Fields, which is an all-ages manga, but a friend handed me a copy of The Clockwork Sky (volume one) the other day and I gave it a read.

Clockwork takes place in steampunk London in the late-1800's, and it's about a 12-year old girl (Sally) who is a bit too wild and free as well as a talented mechanic. Her wealthy parents send her off to her wealthy uncle (Mr Croach) in the city to get an education on being ladylike, but she keeps escaping anyway. She meets Sky, an automaton that acts as the ace of the police force, when he's sent to retrieve her from the slums, and they start noticing things that just aren't right.

In this all-ages story (which is apparently a prequel to Hollow Fields), there are a few major themes that I thought were important. First, there's the huge class distinction. The upper-class folks have it alright, but the slum folk have been cast aside and have all lost their jobs to automatons, all built by Sally's uncle. The police chief is a bit suspicious of him and his methods, so eventually he places his ace automaton Sky to be her guard. We also find out that Sky also appears to have dreams when he's on standby (sleeping).

I don't think the dreaming is a bad omen leading to self-aware automatons that'll take over humanity. Sky isn't like that. I think it's more of a creepy omen of Mr Croach's methods and what we may later learn about how Sky was assembled.

Some parts of the story are going to be predictable for an older reader, though I still found some bits surprising. Yeah sure, Mr Croach is pretty much the typical horrible villain-type person, but the predictability on the part of his character is made up by the unpredictability of Sally's character and the great relationship that forms between her and Sky. Their banter is fun, as he's got an almost C3PO-quality level of naivete that I found endearing. It was emphasized by Mr Croach that Sky was created with a child-like "visage" in order to appeal to the dirty slum folk, but I get the feeling there are more child-like qualities to his character overall than that.

The Clockwork Sky is fun so far. I enjoyed the first volume, especially Rosca's smooth art style that flowed nicely from page to page. The pacing is nice, and we were left with a rather creepy cliffhanger at the end. For an excerpt from the manga (Sky's dream sequence), check out Tor's listing. As I mentioned earlier, the book is all-ages so I have no problems recommending it to children, young adults or adult readers if they're fans of fantasy and/or steampunk.

You could also keep up with Madeleine via her DeviantArt page as well as a Tumblr page and Twitter account. Additionally, you could read a nice interview of the author over at Go Manga.