September, 1913. The crossroads town of Arcane, Missouri, is a place where strange things happen, and lately those strange things have a habit of happening to thirteen year-old Natalie Minks. It's Natalie who first encounters the two boys who arrive in town seemingly out of nowhere, carrying a dead man between them. Odder still, a few of her older neighbors immediately recognize the dead man as a fellow citizen who's been missing for fifty years--and who doesn't appear to have aged in all that time. When another newcomer, a peddler called Trigemine, arrives in town, Natalie learns why the two boys and the peddler have really come to Arcane. And, of course, she realizes she has to stop them.This novella is apparently a connector book for Kate's other works. Unfortunately it is the first work of hers that I've read. It leaves me wanting more, but in both good and bad ways. The character development is solid, especially for the length. I liked Natalie's growth through the book and how she learned to deal with the situations around her. Ben and Amory are also good, showing a good amount of historical attitudes as well as individuality. The plot was tight, with some good twists and turns and a great enigma tying everything together. Some of the turns, though, and especially the climax left me feeling somewhat confused. There were lots of clues to things lying around, but since I haven't read Boneshaker or The Broken Lands I really couldn't pick them up and use them. I felt like there was just something missing for the people who hadn't tuned in earlier. I did, however, get a real desire to read more of Milford's work. I just hope that Boneshaker isn't too spoiled for me now.
Like The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands, The Kairos Mechanism is a moderately frightening folklore-based fantasy. If you have read The Boneshaker, you'll find the novella full of clues as to what's coming and bits of history about characters you've already met. If you haven't read it, don't worry. You'll fall in love with Natalie and Arcane right away.
The paperback edition of The Kairos Mechanism is available directly from me (http://clockworkfoundry.com), from McNally Jackson Books (http://mcnallyjackson.com), and Word Books (http://wordbrooklyn.com). Digital editions are available from Vook.com, BN.com, iTunes, and Amazon.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a non-biased review.