Hope and the Clever Man is a steampunkish secondary-world fantasy novel, the second of the Gryphon Clerks series.
Place in the series: This book’s timeline includes all the events of Realmgolds, and the two have several characters in common, but either can be read first. There are some spoilers for events in Realmgolds, but nothing you probably couldn’t work out for yourself early in that book.
While Realmgolds is concerned with political maneuvering, Hope is about the people who work in the background to keep the wheels going round, and occasionally stop them from falling off.
Hope's story continues in Hope and the Patient Man.
Mike Reeves-McMillan has a black belt, which holds up his trousers. He’s not sure why authors make such a big deal of these, but they are certainly convenient, trouserwise.
For someone with an English degree, he’s spent a surprising amount of time wearing a hard hat. He’s also studied ritualmaking, hypnotherapy and health science.
Mike writes strange worlds that people want to live in. He himself lives in Auckland, New Zealand, surrounded by trees.
Goodreads (book page): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18657424-hope-and-the-clever-man
Hope and the Clever Man Blurb
An act of powerful magic in a moment of rage almost destroys Hope's magical career before it starts, leaving her more determined than ever to prove her worth.
Her chance comes when she's assigned to work for the eccentric inventor known as the Clever Man. The magical technology they create together could change the course of a war and help an oppressed people plan their revolution, but wealthy and powerful interests will fight to put it down any way they can.
Bucket led her to a newer part of Illene, where the ancient, organic-looking, rounded or hexagonal elven buildings were replaced by newer dwarfbuilt structures, foursquare and solid. The small university city stood on the old river floodplain, allowing for straight, wide streets. He flung open an undistinguished door and bowed her through as if welcoming an ambassador to the audience hall of a realmgold.
The room beyond was large, but she only knew this because she could see the enormous skylight that made up the whole ceiling. Her view of the room itself was blocked by a number of wheeled boards, covered in spidery dwarvish script interspersed with magical sigils and some other symbols that she found completely unfamiliar. She touched one curiously, and found that the writing came off on her finger.
“One of the Master’s inventions,” said Bucket, as proudly as if he had come up with them himself. “He knows a bit about inks and surfaces, does the Master, and he says the dust from chalkboards damages the more delicate equipment.”
She navigated through the boards, and found herself in what looked like a serious collision involving a print shop, a mage’s workspace, the stockroom of a mad glassblower, sixteen or twenty more boards, and the junk-midden of a medium-sized dwarfhold. Standing amid the ruins, bent over a draughtsman’s table, was a man no taller than Hope, and probably not many years older, though his face was creased with worry-lines.
The Realmgold had mentioned things her clever man didn’t do well. These clearly included sleeping, eating, dressing, washing and shaving. His hair looked like it should be arrested for disorderly conduct, his eyebrows as if they had been partially burned off, and he had scars all up his arms, which were visible because his worn and threadbare sleeves were unevenly rolled up above his elbows. The state of his fingernails would have shamed a drunken farrier. His once-white shirt and beige trousers were marked and stained with scorches, odd colours and more than occasional burn holes, as was the tradesman’s smock he wore over them.
He didn’t look up at the sound of Hope’s footsteps.
“Master,” said Bucket loudly. “Master. The Realmgold has sent you a mage.”
Hope and the Clever Man is available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GWRPJVA
Cover Art by Chris Howard