Timekeeper, by Tara Sim (Sky Pony Press, YA, November 2016), literally starts with time slipping; in this case, two o'clock goes missing from a clock tower. In this quasi Victorian world, clocks don't just tell time, they keep it running, so the loss of 2 o'clock has repercussions for the people that live around that tower, for whom it is suddenly three o'clock. 17 year old Danny is the clock mechanic sent to repair this tower, but what should be a simple job leads him down unexpected paths when he meets the spirit and driving force of this particular tower, Colton, who has the form of a boy Danny's own age.
Danny has lots on his plate emotionally--his father got trapped in a town where time was stopped, and Danny wants to be on the team working to mend things. His mother has withdrawn from him, and he himself is caught up in his own problems to an unhealthy point. Being gay is not a crime in this version of the past, but it's not the done thing either, and that difference also contributes to Danny's loneliness and depression. But Colton, beautiful, impossible Colton, makes him think of other things.....
This book is both romance and mystery (the mystery being how time was stopped in the town where Danny's dad is trapped). The dangers that spill over from the mystery solving jeopardize the romance, and the romance jeopardizes Danny's role in freeing his father....The two threads are nicely entangled, making for a nicely balanced whole. This is one for readers who don't expect constant Alarms and Excursions; it's something of a slow burn that requires immersion into the fascinating world of clocks and clock spirits and manifestations of temporal twistiness.
Do try this one if you are looking for a sweet but fraught romance (especially if you're looking for an LGBTQ one). Do try this if you think that time spent cleaning and repairing clockwork with the clock tower spirit helping, and lots of Danny sensing time bending and moving around him, sounds interesting. But don't go into it expecting a steampunk extravaganza of strange mechanicals and lots of zapping and zipping. I myself enjoyed it lots, and recommend it.
And so, in a recommending spirit, here's what the pros said, all of which I agree with without any (substantive) quibbling:
"Part mystery and part romance, this fantasy novel delves into what it means to grow up and make important decisions. With an easily relatable main character struggling to fit in, the novel has a realistic and contemplative voice. VERDICT: A must-have richly written fantasy novel that will have readers eagerly anticipating the next volume." —School Library Journal
"Sim creates a cast of complex and diverse characters, as well as a mythology to explain how the clock towers came to exist . . . an enjoyable, well-realized tale." —Publishers Weekly
“[M]ystery, LGBTQ romance, and supernatural tale of clock spirits and sabotage that explores how far people might go for those they love. Its strongest elements are the time-related mythology and the supernatural gay romance.” —Booklist
"This LGBTQ steampunk romance sports a killer premise and admirably thorough worldbuilding, helpfully annotated in the author’s afterword. The characters—even the bad guys—are sympathetically drawn and commendably diverse in sexuality and gender." —Kirkus Reviews
"An enjoyable start to a promising new trilogy." —BookPage
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher