So this book. I met Kristine in 2014 through a friend. He said “Oh, you write! My friend Kristine writes. You should meet her.” So we had a ‘supervised lunch date’ and hit it off. We worked at the same company and would talk during our slow time. We talked a lot about her novel and querying and about my short works. I remember the day she got a request for a full manuscript and the process of her signing with Giant Squid Books. I changed jobs while she was doing rewrites so we talked a bit less, but I was still aware of the process and what she was going through. This book was born in front of me and I was at the launch party. Naturally, I was excited to read it and see what Kristine had done with these characters.
27 Days to Midnight by Kristine Kruppa
Summary via Goodreads
Everyone in Dahlia’s world knows when they’re going to die. Except her.
Her father has never shown her the pocket watch counting down the days she has left to live. When he sacrifices himself to save her from her scheduled death, Dahlia abandons her comfortable home and sets off after his murderer to uncover the secrets her father died to protect…and the time research that could bring him back to life.
Then she meets Farren Reed. She should hate him. He’s an enemy soldier, a cowardly deserter, and the most insufferable man Dahlia’s ever met. Still, she needs all the help she can get, and Farren is the only chance she has to find the man who murdered her father. But Farren has only twenty-seven days left on his watch.
In that time, Dahlia must recover her father’s time research, foil a psychotic general’s plot, and learn to survive in a world that will never be the same. But the research holds secrets more dangerous than she had ever imagined. She will have to choose what is most important: revenge, Farren’s life, or her own. And time is running out.
If you have this book, you’ll see my name in the acknowledgments. I helped Kristine write her summary for the query letter and at the time, she had to tell me the entire plot of the book. Luckily for me, that was over two years ago and I’d forgotten 80% of what we’d written together so I was still surprised by the twists and turns of the plot. I liked Dahlia and I loved Keet. It’s sometimes hard for me to relate to women in books so this was a nice touch. The world building was fun and I liked the idea of the watches. It made me really think about my own life and what I would do differently if I knew how long I had to live. I thought Kruppa handled the watches well, talking about how you could still die prematurely, but it made me wonder if I would act differently if I knew my time was up. Like the bounty hunter who was shot; what would make him think to leave the house that day knowing he would die? Would he die some other way if he stayed in bed? It made me think about avoiding death.
Kruppa did a great job of explaining why Sebastian was as delusional as he was. Many times, I feel villains can be underdeveloped but I liked that I understood Sebastian. His love for Sita blinded him and drove him to hate Ansel though his self-conversations were a bit further and I missed the connection there. I think it was a psychotic break due to his grief and single-minded thinking.
Keet was my favorite character. I liked the strong female in her and the tomboy personality. At first, I thought she had learned about ships to make up for Tiberius being unable to do many of the functions but I liked learning more about her and finding that she had always been that way. She was resourceful and smart and I saw a bit of Kristine in her.
Part of the reason I liked Keet so much is that I related to her. I can be a very strong personality and very independent so I could relate to that. My husband and I have a very non-traditional relationship where I am the majority breadwinner and he does a lot of the house chores which made it easy to relate to Keet and Tiberius’s alternate relationship.
I enjoyed the scene in Lawson’s Ridge. I thought it was a good demonstration of Keet’s character and a really fun chase scene for the characters to be involved in. The ending of the scene was very appropriate in my mind. It wasn’t a clean escape and the side character we learned about had a big role in the ending. That’s something I appreciated as a writer. I liked Tiberius teaching Dhalia something about revenge, too. That was a good development step for him.
I thought the final scenes were a bit drawn out but still really enjoyable. It felt like Dahlia and Farren weren’t going to get away so many times but just managed to escape and draw the plot out a bit longer and then be foiled and find a way out of it maybe once or twice more than I would have liked. That being said, it was always fun reading their narrow escapes. They were very resourceful and smart about how the fought such a deadly man
I loved what Kruppa said about revenge. As Tiberius said, it doesn’t make him feel any better to kill Grimes after he hurt Keet. Dahlia wanted to kill Macall but knew it wouldn’t make her feel better about her father’s death. Though it was what motivated her all the way to the Southern Lands, she realized it was a folly to chase revenge. There are things worth fighting and killing for, but that wasn’t one of them.
Writer’s Takeaway: Many writers are afraid to make their characters suffer, but not Kruppa. She made Dahlia, Keet, Tiberius, and Farren suffer every step of the way. It wasn’t easy for them to get to their final destinations and I really appreciated that. Luck can only be the answer for escaping something unscathed so many times before it’s annoying.
It’s been a while since I read steampunk and this was a good welcome back to the genre. A full Five out of Five Stars.
Until next time, write on.