Monday, October 4, 2010

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby


Title: The Clockwork Three
Author: Matthew Kirby
Publisher: Scholastic Press (October 1, 2010)
Reading Level: Ages 9+
Hardcover: 400 pages
ISBN: 0545203376


I don’t normally copy the description of a book from its jacket, but the first part of The Clockwork Three’s description is so perfect I can’t help but steal it:

“Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom.

Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family -- if she can find it.

And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker's apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers' guild -- if only he can create a working head” (taken from Amazon's product description).

Ok, end of steal. Set sometime in the in the early 1900s on in an active American city on the coast, mysterious circumstances bring these three kids together. Together, they decide to help each other achieve their goals. But this decision leads them down the dangerous and twisting alleys of their city where thieves, gangsters, and mysterious agents lurk. United, they must learn to trust each other and find the strength to overcome those who wish to stop them from achieving their dreams.


Though the book does a fantastic job of blending steampunk, history, mystery, and a bit of fantasy, the strength of this book definitely lies in its characters. Giuseppe, Hannah, and Frederick are each in their own way deserving of your love and sympathy. Young readers will have no problem finding a friend within the pages to identify with and relate to, especially since each of these three young heroes play an equally important role towards the movement of the plot. In addition, beautiful and smooth writing make this story engaging from page one. Break-out author Matthew Kirby has a knack for describing everything thoroughly, with enough detail so that there is no difficulty in picturing the scene—even the more fantastical and steampunky elements of the story.

However, if you’re like me and have the attention span of a small rodent, you might find the book a bit long and slow. Though the characters run into each other numerous times throughout the story, the three stories don’t actually merge and move towards a common goal until three fourths of the way through the book. As a result, I felt like the adventure advertised on the jacket was put on the backburner, scarified so that Kirby had time to set up each of his characters’ background, personality, and direction. I guess it’s hard to blame him for this; I mean, it’s hard enough to set up context for one main character, let alone three—and he does it so well. But it was tiring after a while to jump around waiting for each character to run into another. I’m not trying to say it was a bad read—no, I loved the details put into each of the characters’ lives, especially Hannah’s. But by the end, I lost interest in what was really going on. However, for those you that like well grounded characters, a bit of adventure, a bit of mystery, and don’t mind taking the time to reach the actual plot, then you’ll love this book.


5/8 Tentacles