Format: Kindle, 211 pages
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction, Steampunk
As a physician, Jin Soling can see that the Emperor is cracking, relying on Opium to drown his troubles. The Ch’ing Empire is failing, and war with the British is imminent, but the man to whom Soling was once engaged has a bold idea to save it.
A leader within the Ministry of Engineering, Chang-wei suggests an alliance with Japan, whose scientists claim to have technical advancements that could turn the tide of the war. But Japan has kept itself in isolation for the last two hundred years, cutting all diplomatic ties with the Ch'ing Empire. Chang-wei must enter the island nation in disguise to seek an alliance—an alliance forbidden by the Japanese shogunate.
Seeking to escape the politics of the imperial court, Soling arranges her own passage on the airship to Japan. But once they land, Chang-wei and Soling become targets of the shogunate's armored assassins. Caught between two empires, in a land distrustful of foreigners, the deadly war machines are the least of their worries..
Clockwork Samurai is the second installment in the Gunpowder Chronicles by author Jennie Lin. Set in the Qing Dynasty of China (1852), the story picks up a little over a year after the end of Gunpowder Alchemy. 19-year old Jin Soling has moved with her family to the Forbidden City in Peking where she is a physician for the Emperor’s concubines. Jin once again finds herself at the center of attention. Unwanted attention by the Emperor who has fallen to the addiction of opium that has swept his country like a plague, and the concubines who wonder why she isn't one of them.
Thanks to Inspector Aguda, Jin travels with Chen Chang-Wei to the feudal lands of Japan, the samurai, the shogunate (徳川幕府 ?) and Edu that will rule the land until 1867. Soling and her former intended embark on a mission that finds them deep in mystery, suspense, action, adventure, and helped by potential allies who just might have the answers that Chen is looking for to defeat Britain.
Jin's own father had a connection to someone in Japan when he was alive. He was actually trying to make an alliance in order to fight the west with their own weapons. There is more of a romance feel to the story this time around. I think that Jin finally understands that even though Chen is loyal to the Emperor and he is still considered a race traitor, he hasn't turned his back on her, or what they could have had were it not for the murder of her father. He still works hard to create weapons that can be used to save their country.
Jin is such an breath of fresh air as a character. She has no intention of relying on anyone for assistance. She continues to try to find a way to cure the Opium rage that is sweeping the country and nearly took her own mother. She also has a few allies that were former colleagues of her father keeping an eye out for her. Jin honestly thought she could make a difference by working with the Emperor to find a cure. She's believes in the healing power of acupuncture, and is even tempered even when things are at their most desperate.
One of the things I most like about this series is the realism of the setting. Oh sure, Lin takes some of her own advances when it comes to inserting her characters into the series and certain events that may or may not have actually happened. Japan was portrayed exactly as it was during the early to late 19th century. They weren't exactly thrilled to have foreigners on their soil, and cities like Nagasaki was where most of the trade took place. The shogunate ruled with an iron fist, and it would take a foreign country to open their gates to the world.
Historically speaking, this story once again takes place between first Opium War (1839–42) which was fought between China and Britain, and the second Opium War (1856–60). It also takes place a year before American's (Meiguoren) arrived in Japan which lead to the end of Japan's isolationism with the rest of the world. I do wonder about the third book, and where Jin will go from here. It is obvious she has her back to the wall of 1856 when the next war will begin with the west. How she gets there, and what role Jin will play will be interesting to discover.