Ava Morgan, $2.99
Fantasy Romance, 2014
The Armored Doctor is the second entry in Ava Morgan’s steampunk fantasy series Curiosity Chronicles, but it can stand alone pretty well with a pretty self-contained plot and standalone romance. The doctor in question is Dr Jacob Valerian, who specializes in creating marvelous mechanical prosthetic limbs, a craft he continues to hone after coming back from the war with his own scars. Our heroine is Abigail Benton, who was working at the pharmacy and asking Jacob inappropriately intrusive questions about his purchases before she is fired for allegedly passing the wrong medication to another client. Her nephew and niece – children of a sister who has disowned her – show up and their parents are away, so Abigail has to take them in while looking for a job. How convenient that Jacob needs an assistant. More chances for Abigail to demonstrate her inability to understand the concept of personal space and boundaries!
The Armored Doctor can be divided neatly into two parts. The first part is basically a steampunk take of the brooding hero and the feisty nanny with kids in tow story line. The problem here is that the pacing drags. Scenes just seem to go on and on, while at the same time things happen at an agonizingly slow crawl. The characters and their scenes aren’t interesting enough to make up for the draggy pace, as much about them are familiar and, hence, predictable. The second half is more action-paced, and hence a less sleep-inducing read, but this also means that the entire story ends up with a rather bipolar feel.
Throughout it all, the characters’ lack of vulnerability adds to the tedium. Oh, Jacob is brooding and he has some angst, but at the same time, he is talented and capable in a manner that goes beyond his credentials or past experience. I suppose we can argue that he is just amazingly gifted, but that doesn’t mean that such a hero is interesting to follow. Conflicts just wash off him, because he’s that awesome. That’s not very interesting, is that? Meanwhile, Abigail is feisty, sassy, and nosy in a way that is supposed to be positive, and just like Jacob, things come naturally and easily to her. If she is at fault, it’s either because it’s actually the haters’ fault or she is just being cute. Everything just washes off her, and her issues with her sister are resolved neatly, easily.
At the end of the day, The Armored Doctor takes its time to tell a story that turns out to be not very interesting, mostly because the main characters are so good, they are just going through the motions of overcoming “adversity” here. The characters seem like they can do everything in their sleep, while the story does its best to make me fall asleep. It’s a combo that is hard to overlook, even if the narrative is admittedly clean and serviceable.