The Deepest Poison
Harper Voyager, 2015.
There’s not too much longer to wait for The Clockwork Crown, which hits stores on June 9,
the sequel to Beth Cato’s wonderful steampunk fantasy The Clockwork Dagger, but she’s still giving fans a little amuse bouche to tide us over.
The Deepest Poison is the first in a series of short works set in her “Clockwork Universe”, an e-novelette featuring Clockwork Dagger’s gifted medician Octavia Leander. But while Cato’s debut is told from Octavia’s perspective, The Deepest Poison is a first person narrative from her mentor Miss Percival.
Set before the events of Clockwork Dagger, the story finds the pair serving on the frontlines of Caskentia’s endless war with the Wasters, treating the sick and wounded from the battlefield in sort of a magical M*A*S*H unit.
But soon the troops are falling ill in great numbers and the women suspect foul play. As they investigate further, they uncover the conspiracy. But the revelations about the guilty, as well as Octavia’s blossoming command of her healing gifts from the Lady, threaten the relationship between teacher and student.
Although The Deepest Poison is brief, Cato effectively captures the dismal conditions of life on the frontlines — she based the Caskentian/Waster war on historical accounts of World War I. And this brief episode provides the background leading to the revelations at the end of Clockwork Dagger.
The Clockwork Crown will finish Octavia’s storyline, but with quality short works like The Deepest Poison, Cato proves there is still plenty of grist for good storytelling in Caskentia.
The Deepest Poison is available May 28.