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The Clockwork Three

Review

The Clockwork Three

When Giuseppe finds a green violin floating in the water following a shipping accident, the young musician knows he has stumbled across something unusual. But when he first touches his bow to its strings, he realizes he has happened upon something extraordinary, even magical. The violin's music has a powerful effect on everyone who hears it; it seems to make them stand up straighter, smile a little brighter, and (most importantly to Giuseppe) open up their wallets more generously to the young busker. Perhaps this can be Giuseppe's ticket back to Italy --- if only he can keep both the violin and the money he's making a secret from his cruel padrone, who demands that he turn over his earnings.

Frederick is lonely and sad, still haunted by the cruelties of the orphanage where he lived as a young boy. He aspires to become a journeyman apprentice, to practice the trade of clock making in the wider world beyond Master Branch's small studio, where he's been training for the past several years. Secretly, he's also working on building an automaton, a clockwork man whose intricate gears and workings are the true test of his skills. If only he could figure out how to construct the creature's head…or perhaps a head will come to him, with results that no one could anticipate.

Hannah has to work at an unfriendly hotel, supporting her family while her talented stonemason father lies in bed, an invalid after an apoplectic attack. She's on the verge of being fired when she's taken under the wing of the alluring but mysterious Madame Pomeroy, who makes Hannah her personal companion. Perhaps, with her new unexpected status, Hannah will be able to investigate the rumors she's heard about, of a hidden treasure lurking in one of the old building's secret rooms. Meanwhile, though, Madame Pomeroy's many errands bring Hannah in contact with both Giuseppe and Frederick, as the three young people discover that their individual stories might converge in unexpected and exciting --- but possibly dangerous --- ways.

Set in an unnamed American city sometime in the unspecified past, THE CLOCKWORK THREE is an atmospheric fantasy that combines magic, suspense and genuine regard for its characters. Debut author Matthew J. Kirby manages to breathe life into all three protagonists, to illustrate their individual interests and talents while providing heartfelt glimpses into each of their pasts and often complicated emotions and desires. His development of villainous characters is also well handled, as the danger for our heroes and heroine comes from every corner and the suspense builds steadily.

With plenty of steampunk elements and more than a few hints of violence, THE CLOCKWORK THREE is, in many ways, as dark and menacing as its hard-edged setting. But it will draw in readers who love history, fantasy, adventure, or just really good stories about believable, human characters.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 1, 2011

The Clockwork Three
by Matthew J. Kirby

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2011
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0545203384
  • ISBN-13: 9780545203388