Reviews for Clockwork Three

Booklist Reviews 2010 October #2
In his ambitious novel, Kirby weaves together a good amount of reliably alluring elements. Initially distinct plotlines follow three children in an unspecified Victorian-era-ish American city: Giuseppe plays the fiddle on street corners for spare change, hoping to have enough left over after paying his wicked padrone for a ticket back to Italy; Hannah works as a hotel maid where she learns of a hidden treasure that may save her ailing father; and Frederick, an apprentice clockmaker, figures that the automaton he is crafting in secret will allow him to become a journeyman. The trio of strands coheres nicely as Kirby twists wisps of mysticism into the clockwork elements, clear-eyed environmentalism into the dour urban grittiness, and a timeless sense of family and friendship into the bold, can-do adventuring. Though he sometimes spells things out a little too bluntly and can't escape a bit of contrivance to wrap everything up in the end, this remains a strong debut effort with memorable characters, hearty action, and palpable atmospherics. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2010 October
In a quest for answers, they find each other

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.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
A magical violin helps young street musician Giuseppe dream of escaping exploitation; a bronze talking head from antiquity helps apprentice clockmaker Frederick complete his automaton masterwork; and a hidden treasure map allows hotel maid Hannah to imagine relief for her troubled family. Their stories intersect in this against-the-odds tale of complex moral choices, with fantastical elements surfacing throughout. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 October #1

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.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2011 January/February
Set in what many will recognize as a richly created adaptation of 19th century New York City, the novel follows three young adults who are trying to find their places in the world and make their dreams come true. Giuseppe, an Italian orphan, earns money playing the violin on street corners. He yearns to return to Italy to find his siblings. Frederick, another orphan, works as an apprentice to a watchmaker. His wish is to make journeyman so he can be independent. Hannah supports her family by working as a hotel maid. She yearns to make enough money to move her family out of the tenements. Chance encounters connect the three, each told from that character's point of view. The three are slowly drawn together on an adventure. Kirby simultaneously pulls back the layers surrounding each teen and moves the action forward until the three disparate stories mesh together. The suspense builds, keeping the reader hooked until the end, which does leave room for a sequel. An article about child la or in 1873 gave Kirby the germ for the idea for Giuseppe. Recommended. Esther R. Sinofsky, Director, Instructional Media Services, Los Angeles (California) Unified School District ¬ 2011 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 September #3

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 November

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.

VOYA Reviews 2011 February
In the past, children worked at young ages and were often slaves to masters, although they called them apprentices. Frederick is a clockwork apprentice who is seeking to build an automaton, Guiseppe is a violin player who has a cruel master, and Hannah is a chambermaid at an elegant hotel who is working to keep her impoverished family alive. Throughout the novel these three characters' lives begin to intersect, like the gears on a clock. Each of them has a little bit of magic in their lives: a green violin, a piece of a golem, a magnus head. And each of them is forced to deal with amazing circumstances: Guiseppe's master is trying to kill him, Hannah's father is deathly ill, Frederick makes decisions that put his entire future as a clockmaker at risk. As they race against time to bring the pieces of their puzzles together, they learn about the magic of friendship--and that each of them has the key to helping the other. The Clockwork Three is Matthew Kirby's first fantasy novel, and it is a compelling read. In a historical time reminiscent of Dickens' Oliver Twist, these kids race through city streets and parks and must struggle with adults who are willing to overlook crimes against children. The characters are rich and rewarding; readers will want to read about their lives and will be rooting for a happy ending. This title is recommended for all fantasy readers.--Karen Jensen 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.