This novelette is available as a free read from the author’s site (http://www.kfieldingwrites.com/free-reads/) and it’s well worth the time to check out. The story is beautiful and intense as it brings Dante Winter to life, a man discarded by his family for being flawed and unwilling to stick to the well-made, inexpensive watches his father had built a reputation on. Instead, Dante sees the potential for beauty, wasting time on useless ornamentation in his father’s eyes.
Cast out, the Dante we know trolls the junkyards for machinery he can repair and sell to keep a roof over his head and starvation from caving in his belly. If his finds happen to include colored glass or chipped beads, well then he’s made enough of a reputation of his own to let a little of his flaws out to play. But his father’s voice echoes hard in his head, never more so than when he finds a broken automaton he has neither the skill nor the tools to repair.
I love how he starts out seeing Talon, the automaton, first as a potential meal ticket but then comes to identify the machine as so much more than gears with a scarred covering that allowed Talon to pass as human. The story follows Dante’s becoming as he overcomes his past in part through a friend and shopkeeper who would like to be so much more.
Annette Swan recognizes his talent and values him for the care he takes in bringing discarded items back to rich beauty even greater than they originally possessed. She wants to bask in his vision, but doesn’t fault or press him for his lack of interest. It changes her opinion of his talents not one bit.
I’m trying to give you a sense of the power behind this story without spoiling, but it’s hard and some elements I can’t avoid. Still, this is a story of nuance and character change. Even if I laid out every plot point, the story would not be spoiled because its strength is not in the facts, but in the impact and emotions surrounding those facts.
I think the best part of it is how this isn’t the story of a broken man having to build himself a friend and lover because he’s incapable of attracting a live one. Instead, it’s the story of an imperfect man who struggles to manage social expectations as much as family ones, but has the vision to see beauty in what others disregard. He isn’t willing to overcome his so-called flaws to conform to what is expected of him. It’s a gay love story, but the love is as much for self as for Talon because Dante must accept he’s worthy of something more than quick encounters first.
This review comes months after I read the story, because I rarely review something so short, but The Clockwork Heart has stuck with me this whole time, and so I decided to share it with you.