Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

Reading books can be like "chasing butterflies over hills." So often, I want to capture the beautiful turn of phrases or word combinations like I borrowed the author's "butterfly" simile from this book. For a "steam-driven" person that moves fast, cooks fast, and reads fast, I'm amazed when a writer can slow me down from a boiling to simmering temperature. Believe me, it rarely happens. This book did just that. I was caught up in the beautiful descriptions, setting, characters, and similes. What starts out as a fairly realistic story turns into an interesting fantasy. Some of the steampunk novels come across as surreal and I liked this Dickens-like setting, although it isn't really any particular city. Sometimes I felt like I was in Europe and others times in New York. The old time sounds of cobblestone streets and coal chutes along with child slave labor flavor the imaginary world with industrialization characteristics from the 1800's. Guiseppe is an orphan that works for a padrone, playing his fiddle on the streets for pennies. His is a harsh life where beatings and stealing is an everyday occurrence. Hannah is a maid at a hotel who is now the breadwinner after her father had a stroke. Frederick is an orphan who lives with a clockmaker as his apprentice after he discovered his talent for gears. When circumstances bring the three together, they become friends helping each to improve their lot in life.

The plot has the three characters points of view that are separate before their paths criss-cross. The author does a nice job keeping the action going and weaving the plot together. I do think that some of my less patient readers might find the pacing slow. While I found the author's word choices delightful, others might be impatient for the action to move along at a quicker pace. Some writer's are wordier than others so I will just have to make sure I let them know that when booktalking its qualities. In the beginning and most of the middle everything seems to be going wrong for the characters, but it wraps up well at the end. The automaton's voice is distinct and there are hints that a fantastical element will kick in which is does around the last third of the book. The magical green violin, the mysterious Madame Pomeroy and her bodyguard, along with the golem clay foreshadow what is to come.

The characters have distinct arcs. Guisseppe must decide how to live free of a life of enslavement. Hannah must face her anger over her circumstances. Frederick has to learn to trust others and let go of his fear of abandonment. I did want some more background information on Madame Pomeroy. She was an interesting character. She sure could reappear in a sequel if the author decides to go that route. Some nice themes have Hannah having to take responsibility for her actions and learning how to make momentous decisions. She seems to face more critical choices than the others and needs to think through her actions based on character. She must decide between good choices and bad choices. She makes both creating an authentic character. She also has to deal with shallow characters such as Walter, just as Guiseppe has to determine how to react to a betrayal by his friend. Many of the situations show characters having empathy for others and being slow to anger.

Here is Kirby's full description: "She leaned close to the pages, chin resting on her folded arms, eyes racing over words, like chasing butterflies over the hills, to catch as many as she could before going to work. She wondered at how such tales of magic could be contained by mere paper and ink for her to read again and again. Which she had." Add this one to your shelf.

4 Smileys

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