Returning to the machine rooms brings the story full circle, which is a nice bit of linking. For all the epic journey that the characters have been on, ultimately they’ve returned to exactly where it all began – especially Tarn, of course.

Especially eagle-eyed readers might find the description of the spherical device in this chapter curiously familiar. While there have been hints throughout, this is the first time there’s an overt link between The Mechanical Crown and my previous book A Day of Faces. It’s not a major plot element or MASSIVE TWIST, and it won’t have a huge bearing on the remaining chapters, but there is some shared technology between the two: the cobalt blue colour plays a recurring role in both books, and it isn’t coincidental. It’s more of an Easter egg than an active plot point, but it’s there nonetheless.

Something I suspect I’ve done more than once in this book is to take the time to establish a location in a relatively ‘calm’ chapter, before then following it up with a more destructive or action-packed chapter. In ‘Automation’ we get to further explore the tunnels and chambers of the machine rooms – and we’ve already seen some of it right at the start of the book and during Pienya’s ill-fated visit recently – without there being much in the way of extensive action. It’s a slow-paced chapter, exploratory, and sets up the geography and quirks of the space. Same happened with Aviar, same happened with Bruckin: the ending of this chapter is a pretty decent clue that matters are going to become more frenetic next time round.

Here we also have the machine becoming fully activated, and switching into a kind of higher gear than we’ve seen before. It’s very much taking us into the endgame, with the sphere’s activation being the beginning of the end of the book. There is no going back from here, even if as a reader you’re not quite sure where you’re being taken yet.

This was another nice opportunity to have Tranton, Kirya and Tarn all in a scene together, all reacting slightly differently to events and bouncing off one another. Here we get everything from Tranton’s POV, seeing his personal response to the machine rooms, which gives these chapters a distinct feel from those very early chapters of the book when we only saw the machine rooms through Tarn’s eyes.

Right, it’s Thursday night as I type this. Tomorrow a new chapter arrives and it all kicks off.


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