Mechanical Heart Review – Interview with Sarah Pennington

Can you save someone who doesn’t know if she’s alive? 

Breen lives locked away, separated from the world by the walls of her clock tower and the machine of gems, gears, and magic that replaces her heart. That is, until an unexpected visitor appears in her tower, offering a dangerous gift: freedom. His promises awaken hope for a life unbound by the tower walls — but she knows that if he learns about her heart, it’s only a matter of time before he turns on her. 

Josiah is powerless. Though he’s the crown prince of the mighty Chanian empire, he feels stifled by his inability to protect his people from the schemes of corrupt nobles. When he discovers a girl trapped in a locked clock tower, he thinks he’s finally found a problem he can solve . . . but more than just walls keep her captive. 

From the royal palace to the streets of Rivenford to the tops of clock towers, secrets hide around every corner in this steampunk retelling of Rapunzel. Breen and Josiah hold the keys to each other’s struggles — if they can break down the barriers that divide them. 

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This is the story of a girl is pain, who sees herself as not even alive.


She’s found in this half life, given friendship, and ultimately the chance to save herself and others.

Excellent writing

I won’t say this book has no flaws, it’s the creation of a human. But Ican make no complaints. The world and characters feel real, the dialogue is skillful, the plot drew me along.

Clever characters

There’s clever characters of several kinds. Breen and Luis are both brilliant at creating things. Grace is emotionally intelligent. Josiah is great at coordinating,  acting decisively, and getting to the bottom of a matter. There’s also plenty of cleverness coming from the villains.

No romance thread

I have no problem with romance in stories. But they don’t all need it, and i love how this story deals with other relationships. Some people would have tried to include a romance, and that would just be a distraction from everything else.

Compassionate characters

The thing I admire Josiah most for is his strong desire to help everyone he can. He doesn’t always go about it the best way, and might care a little much at the start about being the hero, but he cares. Grace cares. Luis is laid back, but he cares. And Breen despite living alone for so long has such a heart for the well being of others.

Deaf and mute characters

I’m not one to talk about diversity and inclusiveness much, but i love how this story dealt with people who are different; There’s several deaf characters and I think Sarah did a wonderful job of portraying them

All up, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it for those who like steampunk, stories about royalty, or stories about oppressed people. 

Content rating: Safe for teens. There’s some violence and some discussion of blood and injuries.

Mini Interview with Sarah

If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?  

Ooof. That’s a hard one. Assuming you mean changing things in world history and not just my own life . . . I’d go back to the end of World War I and convince the people who drew up the Treaty of Versailles to show Germany a little more mercy. The way I learned history, part of the cause of World War II was that the Germans were mad about how harshly they were treated after WWI — and yeah, they were aggressors, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t the only ones at fault — but if that anger wasn’t present, then they might not have been as ready to listen to Hitler and others.

I know what your first piece for inspiration for Mechanical Heart was the song Shatter Me by Lindsey Stirling, but is there anything else you would like to share about your development process? Where did the idea for alchemy come from?

Mechanical Heart‘s development was . . . interesting. It’s one of the few stories that I underwrote instead of overwrote, so the first version of the story was tiny — fewer than 20K words, in fact. And because it was so short, it was missing a lot of what it needed to do justice to the characters and plot . . . which is why I ended up rewriting it three times in the space of a year and why the story’s length pretty much doubled with each rewrite. Some of the most important elements — even certain essential characters — didn’t even show up fully until the last rewrite. That said, I don’t tend to do a lot of planning or development work on the front end, so significant edits aren’t super surprising. These were just a little more significant than most.
As for alchemy: I actually can’t remember for sure where I got the idea for this world’s version of the practice. But I would guess that I started with the fact that something had to power Breen’s heart and that the people keeping her in the clock tower were definitely doing some kind of illegal experimentation. And then I probably came up with blood alchemy and alchemy by working backwards from there. I can say for certain that I didn’t figure out exactly how alchemy worked until after I determined where Mechanical Heart fit in my multiverse, and I didn’t figure out why blood alchemy worked until after I wrote Blood in the Snow.

I hadn’t realized this fitted in a multiverse with Blood in the Snow. The settings are so different and they work quite well independent of one another. But if you can connect them and have them both fit into a larger system of rules, that’s really cool.
What would you say is the heart of this story?

The heart of this story is relationships, as is the heart of most of what I write. Breen’s growing friendship with Grace and Josiah, Josiah’s relationship with his people, Josiah and Grace’s sibling love, and Luis and Josiah’s friendship are major driving forces in many of the choices these characters make over the course of the book, and it’s these relationships that really allow them to succeed. 

That’s beautiful.
What might we expect to see from you next?

Well, I’m currently working on a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling for the next Arista Challenge! This story will be a sequel to Blood in the Snow and will blend 12DP with a very loose retelling of Hades and Persephone. It’s a bit darker of a tale than my first two books, as it deals significantly with the fact that good people can make good choices based on the information they have available and yet still fail and still be wrong. But it also has a major focus on sibling relationships (naturally) and figuring out how to let go of your expectations and plans in order to receive something better. And it’ll give everyone a bit more of a look at how this whole multiverse thing works. So, yeah. I’m excited to eventually finish it and share it with y’all.
Thanks for participating in the tour!

Fascinating! I’m looking forward to it. It was lovely to have you.

Author Bio: 

Sarah Pennington has been writing stories since before she actually knew how to write, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. She is perpetually in the middle of writing at least one or two novels, most of which are in the fantasy and fairy tale retelling genres. Sarah’s first published work, Blood in the Snow, received a perfect score and Special Unicorn status in Rooglewood Press’s Five Poisoned Apples contest. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys knitting, photography, and trying to conquer her massive to-be-read list. 
Find her online at: Website || Blog || Second Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Amazon 

Check out the rest of the tour and a giveaway that includes a paperback of Mechanical Heart.

1 Comment

  1. Sarah Pennington

    Thanks for the great review and for having me on your blog, Brie!

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