A sister searches for her missing brother as a new power rises amid the splendour and the squalor of a once great city.
Time is running out for the Clockwork River.
Lower Rhumbsford is a city far removed from its glory days. On the banks of the great river Rhumb, its founding fathers channelled the river's mighty flow into a subterranean labyrinth of pipes, valves and sluices, a feat of hydraulic prowess that would come to power an empire. But a thousand years have passed since then, and something is wrong: the pipes are leaking, the valves stuck, the sluices silted and the once torrential Rhumb has been reduced to a sluggish trickle.
The fortunes of the Locke family, descendants of the city's most celebrated engineer, are similarly reduced. In a once fashionable quarter of the once great city, siblings Samuel and Briony Locke distract themselves: Sam tends to his vast lock collection instead of finishing his engineering thesis; facing the prospect of a disagreeable marriage, Briony occupies herself with alchemical experiments.
One night Samuel leaves the house carrying five of his most precious locks and doesn't come back. As she searches for her brother, Briony will be drawn into a web of ancestral secrets and imperial intrigues as a ruthless new power arises. If brother and sister are to be reunited, they will need the help of a tight-lipped house spirit, a convict gang, a tribe of troglodytes, an association of antiques enthusiasts, a travelling theatrical troupe, the Ladies Whist Club, the Deep State, and a lovesick mouse.
Epic, rollicking and in love with language, Jacob and Sara Emery's sprawling debut novel of humble kitchen magics and awe-inspiring civil engineering is a rare and delicious commodity - the world's first hydropunk novel.