An apothecary clerk and her ex-mercenary allies travel across the world to discover a computing engine that leads to secrets she wasn't meant to know--secrets that could destroy humanity. Eight months ago, Rowena Downshire was a half-starved black market courier darting through the shadows of Corma's underside. Today, she's a (mostly) respectable clerk in the Alchemist's infamous apothecary shop, the Stone Scales, and certainly the last girl one would think qualified to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders a second time. Looks can be deceiving. When Anselm Meteron and the Alchemist receive an invitation to an old acquaintance's ball--the Greatduke who financed their final, disastrous mercenary mission fourteen years earlier--they're expecting blackmail, graft, or veiled threats related to the plot to steal the secrets of the Creator's Grand Experiment. They aren't expecting a job offer they can't refuse or a trip halfway across the world to rendezvous with the scholar whose research threw their lives into tumult: the Reverend Doctor Phillip Chalmers. Escorting Chalmers to the Grand Library of Nippon with her mismatched mercenary family is just a grand adventure to Rowena until she discovers a powerful algebraic engine called the Aggregator. The Aggregator leads Rowena to questions about the Grand Experiment she was never meant to ask and answers she cannot be allowed to possess. With her reunited friends, Rowena must find a way to use the truths hidden in the Grand Library to disarm those who would hunt down the nine subjects of the Creator's Grand Experiment, threatening to close the book on this world.
The second volume of Townsend's Thieves of Fate series (following The Nine) returns to her alternate Earth, where science is the prevailing religion and the planet's most courageous resident is 14-year-old street rat Rowena Downshire. Rowena's perilous life was radically altered when she came under the wing of the Alchemist and encountered a book that was the work of science-minded God. The book identified the Nine, the creator's current test subjects for the experiment of creation; one of them is Rowena. Now the Alchemist's companions have learned that some of the Nine are members of nonhuman races and the book has fallen into the hands of a troublemaking nonhuman who wants to kill the Nine, ending the experiment and all creation with it. Rowena's life is no longer gritty, but Townsend ratchets up the tension by increasing the danger with higher-stakes plots and complex intrigue. Readers get a broader view of the intricate worldbuilding, including the fabulous Grand Library of Nippon, through Rowena's eyes. Fans of genre-bending science fiction will want to take another journey to Townsend's clockwork realms.