Beth Cato is the author of the The Clockwork Dagger steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager, currently comprised of 2 novels (The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown) and 3 novellas (The Deepest Poison, Wings of Sorrow and Bone and the newly released Final Flight. Forthcoming is a novel set in a richly imagined new world, Breath Of Earth. Beth’s short fiction has appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. You can follow Beth on Twitter as @BethCato.
by Beth Cato
The term “Clockwork Dagger” is intended to look nonsensical at a glance. The name came together as I brainstormed titles with a friend. I was just starting to outline a new book, and I wanted “Clockwork” in my title so that the steampunk genre element was clear. My friend suggested “Dagger.” The world I was creating included complex super-spies. Just like that, my spies had a name, and I had a book title: The Clockwork Dagger.
In my fictional kingdom of Caskentia, Clockwork Daggers are agents of Queen Evandia. She’s not a good ruler. She didn’t want to inherit the crown, and she has spent much of her life sequestered in the palace, fearful of her own people. Her fifty years of reign have been marked by almost constant war with rebels across the mountains. Clockwork Daggers act with impunity. Depending on the storyteller, they can be valiant heroes, corrupt bureaucrats, or specialized assassins–or a combination thereof.
No matter what they do, no matter how noble their actions, one thing is vital: a Clockwork Dagger must be loyal to the Queen. That loyalty surpasses any attachment to the suffering, starving people of Caskentia. The Queen is the realm. Whatever she commands must be done.
This creates a terrible situation in my new Clockwork Dagger story, “Final Flight.” Captain Hue of the airship Argus contends with a Clockwork Dagger. He has been directed to fly his vessel to an unknown destination. The presence of well-armed soldiers on board ensures the cooperation of Hue and his crew.
This isn’t Hue’s first dealing with a Clockwork Dagger, either. His ship has just been patched up from the events of my first book, which resulted in an on-board mutiny, gun battle, and Hue’s teenage son almost getting his throat slit. His son, a crewman, is still on board. Hue can’t bear the thought of his boy in danger yet again.
The term “Clockwork Dagger” may look nonsensical, but these agents are ruthless and brilliant, and it will take quick thinking for Hue, his son, and his crew to survive this new encounter.