Wednesday, August 26, 2020

MG Fantasy review of The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher

The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher
Format:  E-ARC
Walker Books Us
Number of Pages:  208
September 8th, 2020 
Source:  Netgalley 

Opening Line:  "A clock ticks, frost is white, stars travel through the night."

Seren has been living at the St. Mary's Orphanage, ever since her parents died while they were living abroad in India.  When Seren turned twelve, she had her first glimpse of life with family after a distant aunt took her in.  But that too was short-lived when the aunt suddenly died.  Then news arrived that Seren's godfather had been located, Captain Arthur Jones, and she would be moving to Wales to live with him, his wife and their son Tomos at their mansion, Plas-y-Fran.  While traveling by train to her new home, Seren encounters an odd man also waiting for the train who's fidgety and seems to be afraid, but of what Seren has no idea.  Then the mysterious stranger decides to leave, handing Seren his parcel to guard.  Unable to find him when the train arrives, Seren takes the parcel with her.

On the train, Seren begins to dream of her new life at the mansion.  With Christmas approaching, she makes plans for all the fun things she and Tomos can do together.  She gets excited about how she envisions the mansion being decorated, the presents she hopes to find under the tree, and spending time with her new family.   However, when she arrives at the mansion she learns that the family is away in London and she's been left in the care of the house staff, Mrs. Villiers and Denzil, who are none too happy with their new charges arrival.  Seren is given strict instructions to never go into the attic, not to wander around the grounds, and the topic of Tomos instantly garners angry reprimands about never bringing him up again.  

Seren's hopes are quickly dashed and she becomes very lonely at Plas-y-Fran.  But being a very inquisitive girl it isn't long before she begins to explore and investigate the mansion like her favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes.   First, she opens the parcel from the train and inside finds cogs, springs, and a note warning her not to put the clockwork crow together. Unable to resist the pull of the mechanical parts, she reassembles the pieces and discovers she's in possession of an enchanted crow who desperately wants her help in being unspelled.  Exploring further, Seren also uncovers what the house staff has been hiding from her, that Tomos went missing last year on Christmas Eve after going for a walk, and it's rumored that he was taken by the fairies.  Seren is convinced she can find Tomos, and with a little help from the clockwork crow, she hopes to bring him home in time to celebrate Christmas.

I was instantly enchanted by the cover of The Clockwork Crow.  The snowy feel of the mansion at Christmas time, a little curious about the snowglobe in the boy's hand, and the blue snowglobe shape in the bottom half of the cover.  I also adore stories set in old mansions, envisioning exploring all the nooks and crannies.  The premise of a boy stolen by fairies was also very intriguing and reminded me of The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver.  Both stories take the main character underground on a rescue mission, with the current story having Seren descend a golden staircase to travel to the palace of ice.   

I was looking for some wintery magic when  I picked up this book and couldn't pass up the steampunk aspects of the clockwork crow.  He's quite something, a little full of himself, surly, demanding, you know the crotchety type who thinks you're at their whim.  Still, he's also quite humorous so I'll let his neediness slide.  Now the interesting, unexpected and slightly creepy part of this book was the fey.  I'm kinda used to the tiny creatures flitting about with gossamer wings spreading their magic.  Seren's fairies are of the darker variety, meant to entrap you with their lulling voice and who's frail snowy like hands grasp at your hair refusing to let you leave.  Despite not expecting the creepiness, I did quite enjoy the story. There's a nice blend of mystery and spookiness and I like the classic fairytale-like quality of this book, with the added bonus of a sarcastic clockwork crow for comedic relief.  And the rhyming lines at the beginning of each chapter were really lovely.  There are two more planned books in the series with The  Velvet Fox being released in October 2020.  
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  1. I love characters like that crow. He reminds me of some people I know.

    1. Me too, I'm looking forward to Book 2 for that reason.

  2. The cover also piqued my interested right away. I agree that old mansions to explore = high appeal factor for me, haha. Sounds like a great winter read.