I stumbled across Clock’s Watch on Twitter. I found the writer’s description compelling, so I figured that if he could make the book sound interesting, he could probably write an interesting book. Besides, the cover art was cool and it was an indie novel. It seems that if you want to read an interesting and original story, independent and self-publishing is where you should look.
I found I didn’t care for the book the first few chapters into the read. The pace was a little jarring, and the story throws you right into a series of events without any context. I didn’t dislike it enough to put it down, however. For that, I am very grateful. Lately, I found that if I can’t get into a book within the first few chapters, then by the end of the book what initially took me off guard ends up being the novel’s greatest strength. I’m realizing a creative, fresh style takes a few chapters to acclimate to, but once adjusted to an innovative (albeit foreign) approach, you end up with an interesting read.
Since I often feel starved for original fiction, I quickly grew to appreciate Reyes’s writing. After turning the last page, I immediately flipped on the computer and logged on to my Amazon account. I felt compelled to buy the next book in the series. I really want to know how this story unfolds.
What’s it about?
Clock’s Watch follows the guardian of the supernaturally charged holy land known as Coney Island. Apparently, along with hotdogs and Ferris wheels, the popular New York tourist attraction also contains an ancient, elemental wellspring of magical power. And who is the current guardian of this mythical land? An invisible dwarf clad in a coonskin cap, wielding a crossbow and magic dagger.
Yeah, this really wasn’t what I was expecting either, but it works.
The novel begins with a series of short, dark adventures told from the perspective of a shifting cast of supporting characters who were rescued or aided by the protagonist. As the plot progresses, we piece together that Clock, a four-foot-tall invisible dwarf, protects Coney Island from demons, otherworldly powers, and dark magic.
Towards the third act of the book, a thread interweaving all these independent narratives begins appearing. The creatures Clock keeps at bay seem to have their own motivations but are given access to this world by a greater threat. Because so many chapters are told through the first-person narration of an ordinary, non-magical person with no perspective of the larger events, we must piece together clues about the overarching plot.
As the adventure reaches its climax, the narration switches to omniscient as Clock contends with his enemies. The shadowy antagonist is revealed but not vanquished. It appears as though this entity will be the “big bad” of the ongoing novel series. We also get a glimpse of Clock’s troubled history. So troubled, in fact, that he used the magical powers at his disposal to block out large portions of his memory.
From chapter to chapter, the novel introduces a lineup of characters with nothing in common other than their proximity to the supernatural. Each character presents a first-person narration of an epic life-altering event they endured. Their brush with the paranormal would have certainly ended in tragedy if not for the intervention of a 4 ft. tall man wearing a coonskin cap and firing crossbow bolts into the specters terrorizing them.
Though the majority of the narrators do not reappear outside of their individual tales, their depiction leaves us with well-defined and relatable characters. Reyes does an excellent job crafting each voice through their narration. Most of these people directly confront forces beyond their imagination and survive, and as they tell their stories, we get the sense that they are relaying their experiences to a close friend. Their consistent personality and perspective offer an immersive and realistic path through a preternatural and mythical plot.
The main character, Clock, remains elusive and mysterious for the majority of the novel. The supporting cast witness him casting spells, wielding a magic serpentine knife, and overcoming evil and monstrous entities. Since the plot gets delivered through the segmented first-person narration of various witnesses, Clock’s motivation appears altruistic but enigmatic.
Interestingly, when the focus transitions away from the witnesses, the narrative voice shifts from the third person into omniscient. Clock doesn’t describe his own story. His story is always told to us either through the voice of someone he saved or through the neutral third person. This maintains the sense of mystery surrounding our hero. You can’t help but feel compelled to keep reading because you want to know more about the protagonist.
Reyes manages to keep Clock just mysterious enough to keep the reader asking questions, but not so distant as to make him unrelatable. When the narrative shift moves to the third person, the novel reveals bits and pieces of Clock’s back story and motivation. These breadcrumbs of information serve to develop the protagonist’s character, but it also protects the mystery of his nature. Every answer we get about the hero’s origin leaves us asking another question.
I want to keep this review about as spoiler free as I can, so I’ll just say for now that Clock’s secretive origins certainly build your curiosity. This is exactly what you want from an urban fantasy; mystery and mysticism expertly blended.
Reyes somehow manages to make the villains of the story even more mysterious than its hero. Throughout the novel, various malevolent supernatural entities harass the ordinary people living on Coney Island. Their motivations seem aligned or even interconnected but are never explicitly revealed. It’s up to Clock to figure out what’s really behind the paranormal assaults on the ordinary world.
By the end of the book, a larger plot is revealed, but not explained. It’s clear that the world is under attack, and our hero will need to do something about it. We’re just going to have to read the next book to find out what that something is. And I’m sure the next book will answer some questions that really just serve to compel us to ask even more questions. The bad guys will be just out of reach until all the clues are collected in the final book.
The world-building and lore developed here are also worth mentioning. Reyes gives us high-view snapshots of metaphysical principles regarding magic and the supernatural realm but never unloads clearly defined rules. We get the sense that we’re looking at a hard magic system, but we’re spared the superfluous explication often seen in indie fantasy books.
Sometimes describing the nuts and bolts of a magic system works, sometimes it doesn’t. This book delivers snippets of the plot which provide a compelling mystery that keeps us asking, “what’s really going on?” Furthermore, it appears that magic will play a critical role in plot development, so only providing us glimpses of the lore protects the mysterious nature of the story. This is a fun way to keep magic “magical”. After all, there’s a reason why magicians never reveal their tricks.
Clock’s Watch provides a familiar fantasy mystery plot structure through a creative and fresh style. The first-person narration drastically shifts tone and voice as the perspective moves from character to character. What I initially thought of as jarring, I inevitably found compelling and one of the best literary tools employed in the book. The supporting characters were very well written and defined. These people came from completely different lives, and the only thing they had in common was that they were rescued from supernatural forces by a 4 ft tall wizard in a coonskin cap. The diversity in perspective made the world highly immersive. They felt like real people telling real (but fantastic) stories.
At the book’s climax, we get a glimpse of Clock’s back story, but only a glimpse. The payoff was good, but it left a lot of unanswered questions. The book left me wanting to know who this guy is. What really happened to him in the past? Why was he chosen to be the protector of this great well of magic? That’s what makes these types of series so much fun, by the end of each book, you’re ready to pick up the next title.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys independent writing, urban fantasy, and mystery. If you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, but want something fresh and unique, I suggest picking up Clock’s Watch. Reyes’s distinctive style is why we enjoy independent authors, but he’s still writing about magic, demons, and mysterious heroes. We get a fun fantasy that hasn’t been diluted by mainstream publication requirements.
I’ll certainly be picking up the next novel. There are too many unanswered questions, and I have to know what happens next.
Until next time, keep reading, writing, and imagining.
This is my first attempt at doing a book review. Most of my readers are familiar with my tabletop role-playing game reviews and deconstructions, but I wanted to try taking a close look at an indie fantasy novel. I felt the audience crossover between TTRPG and fantasy fiction was obviously high, and the Indy book seen is another great passion of mine. If you enjoy this type of content, please leave a comment below and let me know. I’d like to keep writing deep dive book reviews if there’s an interest.
Thanks for reading my take on Clock’s Watch. I really enjoyed the book and wanted to get the word out. If you’re interested in picking up a copy, a link is provided below.