29. The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 386
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 26, 2012
First Published: Oct. 1, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: steampunk, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

When Giuseppe found the green violin, he did not think it would help him escape.

Publisher's Summary: "When Giuseppe finds a green violin washed up in New York docks, somehow he knows it will change his life. But how? The very same day, Hannah, a maid at a local hotel, gets a strange new mistress. Why are Madame X and her mysterious Russian minder living in a hotel? What are they hiding from? Across the square, Frederick, a clockmaker's apprentice, hides his dark terrors, and an amazing gift. There is nothing to link these three children, except the green violin and a chance encounter on the street. But soon they are swept away in an epic adventure. This is a mesmerizing story of chance, friendship, and courage. "

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: This book came unsolicited but I enjoy steampunk as well as stories set in Victorian-like eras, especially from the lower class point of view.

This is a tough book to categorize.  It centres around clockmakers, clockworks and an automaton within a Victorian (or Victorian-like) society and is obviously steampunk but from there it defies generalization.  There is a mystery; this is mostly realistic fiction but there is just that tiny hint of fantasy; the author's note let's us know that some of the events are a compilation from actual events in history, though no dates or name places are given to let us know whether this is happening on our Earth or an alternate Earth.  None of this really matters.  What the story is, is adventure at top-speed, unique plotline and a page turner.

I was hooked at the first chapter and was held in this book's grip until the wonderful satisfying end.  The three child characters are each fantastic as we get to know them and beautifully written.  They are all similar in age and yet they go gradually from eldest to youngest.  Each has a wounded soul and a problem in their lower class life that seems insurmountable.  As pairs of the three meet each other and start helping each other it isn't until the three finally all meet together they realize that each one holds the key to another's problem and as such sets forth the tale that will change each of their lives forever.

The book has a Dickensian feel to it.  Of course, starting with the Oliver Twist-like story of orphan Giuseppe and the buskers under the abusive thumb of Stephano.  Then with the motley cast of characters with names such as Mrs. Treeless, Mr. Grumholdt and Mr. Stroop.  A fantastic story that both readers of Victorian historical fiction and those of steampunk or sure to enjoy.  A brilliant first novel, full of characterization and a plot that doesn't let up until the end.  Very satisfying and recommended.  I'll be reading this author again!


  1. Sounds good! I guess there are pros to surprise books in the mail. :)


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