In a time not that distant from our own, in a city on the East Coast of America, three children are faced with burdens and challenges that would stagger many adults. Their search to find answers—in the extraordinary and in each other—is the quest at the core of Matthew J. Kirby’s marvelous debut novel, The Clockwork Three.
Guiseppe is an 11-year-old orphan who works as a busker—a street musician—for a cruel and merciless padrone. He stands on corners playing his violin, hoping to earn enough money to be spared a beating by his master, dreaming of a way to escape and return to his home in Italy. Frederick works as an apprentice to a watchmaker, hoping to open a shop of his own someday. Hannah has given up school to work as a maid in the city’s fanciest hotel. While each one’s plight seems far removed from the others, they will soon meet, and their lives will be inextricably intertwined.
Kirby paints the New England backdrop of his story as meticulously as an artist dabbling in oils—when Guiseppe finds an enchanted violin washed ashore in the wake of a terrible storm, you can almost smell the fish and salt water in the air. The well-drawn cast of characters brings heart and humanity to this winning tale of hardship, magic and adventure.
Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.
Three poor children leading separate lives find friendship and marvel in a late-19th-century alternative-American city. Orphaned Giuseppe was sold from Italy to a brutal, Fagin-like padrone, who runs a ring of buskers. Frederick, also an orphan, is apprenticed to a kindly clockmaker but is haunted by his time in an orphanage. Hannah's father has been felled by a stroke, and it's up to Hannah to support the family. The third-person-limited narrative shifts from child to child, resulting in an Altman-esque opening. Giuseppe finds a magical violin; Frederick toils to build an automaton; Hannah finds a patron at the hotel where she works. Their three paths intersect, and they become friends, each trying to help the others and running afoul of various adversaries in the process. Kirby seems to be drawing on both mysticism and steampunk to drive his story, and neither element really settles into coherence. The kids are likable, but, oddly, they become less interesting once their stories intertwine, and the outcome is too obvious. An interesting concept, but it needed a little more time to come together. (Steampunk. 9-14)Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
In this riveting historical fantasy, which plays out in an unnamed American city in the mid-19th century, three children's lives intersect as they seek, individually and together, a treasure that could make their fondest dreams come true. For apprentice clockmaker and orphan Frederick, that means a promotion to journeyman and the identity of his mother. For Hannah, a struggling maid at an elegant hotel, it's a cure for her dying father and enough money to take care of her family. And for street musician Giuseppe, it means freedom from his oppressive master and a way back to his home in Italy. Toss into the mix an exquisite green violin, a headless clockwork man, a woman claiming to speak to the dead, a long-hidden secret room, and an assortment of unscrupulous enemies, and debut novelist Kirby has assembled all the ingredients for a rousing adventure, which he delivers with rich, transporting prose. Mixing fantasy and steampunk elements with subtle urban mythology, Kirby's immersive story can be read as a modern morality play or a satisfying stand-alone tale. Ages 8-14. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-7--Giuseppe is an orphan, living as a violin-playing busker under the thumb of an evil padrone named Stephano. Frederick is apprenticed to Master Branch, a clockmaker, while in secret trying to create a clockwork automaton in the form of a man. Hannah is a maid at a hotel, trying to support her family, and particularly her desperately ill father. Giuseppe finds a green violin that sounds more beautiful than anything he has ever heard, which he hopes will earn him the money for passage back to Italy. Frederick is hoping to pass his exams to become a journeyman, but he can't seem to find a way to make his automaton work just right. Hannah is nearly fired from her position, but then is given a job by the mysterious Mrs. Pomeroy, who is living in the hotel. There is talk of a treasure somewhere in the hotel's hidden passageways that would give Hannah the money she needs to make her father well. As fate (or coincidence) would decree, the paths of these three young people become interconnected. Only together can they find the way to solve their problems. What starts out as a promising retro-style adventure falls apart at the end with too many sequences of the kids in peril and an ill-advised and poorly handled sequence in which Frederick's clockwork man becomes animated. Still, The Clockwork Three shows promise and may be enjoyed by fans of Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007).--Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO[Page 119]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.