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The Nine Pound Hammer (The Clockwork Dark #1)

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  541 ratings  ·  112 reviews
What if John Henry had a son?

Twelve-year-old Ray is haunted by the strangest memories of his father, whom Ray swears could speak to animals. Now an orphan, Ray jumps from a train going through the American South and falls in with a medicine show train and its stable of sideshow performers. The performers turn out to be heroes, defenders of the wild, including the son of Jo
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by Yearling (first published 2009)
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A really neat, really new... really fresh premise, merging American folklore with Clockpunk Fantasy! There's was a bit in the end battle that I felt a tad overlong (and as a result skimmed through) but it was still a very unique read. I am intrigued to read the next one, and might even see my way to re-read this again when the sequel gets published (in 2010, likely). The bits I liked the best were with Jolie, Ray, and the characters in the Ballyhoo trying to get to know one another, that is wher ...more
David Andrews
Finally, a young adult book about American mythology! This book explores a younger America on the brink of industrialization. Many of the book’s themes involve the myth of John Henry and the costs of modernization. However, the book also covers topics that many young readers will relate to: alienation and acceptance, family conflicts, and the struggle for self-confidence, to name a few. All of this is packed into a fast-paced and exciting story that is well worth the read.
Most of the book is told from the POV of Ray Cobb, an orphan of 12, with occasional flashes of omniscience, although I can't tell if these were intentional or the result of a first-time writer losing momentary control of viewpoint. This is enjoyable steampunk fantasy for a middle-grade audience, and a great way to introduce that audience to characters, such as John Henry, from the pages of America's tall tales.

The premise is that those tall-tale legends were a loosely organized group called the
If I hadn't given so many other books four stars today in my flurry of reviews (catching up with my vacation reads) I might have given this four instead of three. I'll qualify my rating to a three point five.

This is an interesting and engaging fantasy steeped in Americana, which is a nice change of pace from the many excellent fantasy stories that are so strongly British. Start with this example: the legendary John Henry didn't die from overexertion while proving that manpower beats steam, he wa
Finished this on the drive home yesterday. No, I was not behind the wheel. And only in short spurts. Can't read too many print books anymore or I get carsick.

Anyway. Totally unrelated. This book ...

I liked it. I like the characters and I think there is possibility.

But I also felt like something just wasn't quite ... there. I found myself skimming rather than deeply reading. Some of the mythology just didn't ... work.

So we'll see. Haven't checked yet to see if book 2 is finished (this was just an
I liked this book much better than I thought I would. It is touted as a "Steampunk" book and when I first began to read it I couldn't see that. But it does skirt along the edge of Steampunk and for some reason, I enjoy that genre a lot. I also like that the book incorporates American myths for a change. The characters are rather diverse but well drawn. Perhaps Ray, the progenitor, at age 12 is a little too strong and too savvy for his age but it just adds to the charm of the whole. And the story ...more
The Nine Pound Hammer by John Claude Bemis is the first of the Clockwork Darkness Series. In this story, Ray and his sister, Sally, are on an orphan train headed south from New York City to place the orphans with good families. Ray, who is twelve, gets the idea that Sally would find a better family on her own than she would if they had to find a family that would be willing to take the two of them, so he jumps off the train. Uncertain about what to do, Ray wanders a bit and meets a man, Peter Ho ...more
Andrew Neal
This was quite good. I enjoyed his usage of American mythological characters as well as his characterization of the American South. It didn't completely omit mention of the fact that it would have been dangerous for this mix of racially diverse characters to be traveling together, but I kind of expected more. Then again, it is a kids' fantasy adventure book primarily, and it succeeds at that very well.
I was dithering between two and three stars and went on the high end. This is a children's book and it is grounded in the folk tales of America, especially some from the South. I hope in future books of the series we will see some of the heroes of the West, too. The story was a little clunky in places, and I am hoping that some of the characters who apparently died at the end are really only missing.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike Bauldree
Can't wait to read this book. I had the pleasure of having "first read" while John Bemis was writing the first of "The Clockword Dark" trilogy and it was a fun read.

Looking forward to reading the completed work and the sequels.
This is a fun, young adult fantasy book based on old southern folk tales. At some points, the deliberate southern fried charm wears thin. But on the whole it's enjoyable. And it inspired me to revisit some of those old stories.
I thought this was a really fun fantasy book. I'm planning on recommending it to the fans of the Percy Jackson series that were drawn into the mythology aspect of the series- it might spark their interest in American folklore.
Full disclosure: the author is a neighbor and friend, and former teacher of the eldest.

Oh, but I loved this. The idea of taking American folklore as indicative of real heroes, super-heroes I guess, is genius. Remember, I loved Anne Ursu's The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire. And the steampunk element here is kind of reversed: the good guys have magic and some sort of inherited genetic x factor, the bad guy is making evil machines. There are Pirate Queens and blind sharpshoo
IndyPL Kids Book Blog
Ray and his sister Sally are on an orphan train in hopes of finding new parents out West. On the train, Ray realizes that Sally would stand a better chance at getting adopted if she didn’t have an older brother - so he jumps off the train to adventure on his own.

Ray has one thing to remind him of the life he used to have, a stone his father gave him. It is a lodestone, a magnetic stone used to make compasses. The stone is acting funny. It seems to be pulling Ray South, so Ray decides to go where
Spanish Springs Library  Book Buddies
John Claude Bemis's Clockwork Dark series is our May 2011 Book Buddies selection.

"Twelve-year-old Ray is haunted by the strangest memories of his father, whom Ray swears could speak to animals. Now an orphan, Ray jumps from a train going through the American South and falls in with a medicine show train and its stable of sideshow performers. The performers turn out to be heroes, defenders of the wild, including the son of John Henry. They are hiding the last of the mythical Swamp Sirens from an
Stars: 3.75 stars
Did I like it? Yeah, it was pretty good.
Six word summary: Gog is (view spoiler)
Rating: PG
Complaints: My main complaint is about the audiobook narrator. His "Ray voice" sounds like Mr. Monopoly from the 199-whatever Hasboro Monopoly Junior computer game. It was really annoying.
Praises: Has a cool legend-y feeling. Also, the geographical transition from north-eastern US to the South was great.
Summary: Ray an
Robert Kent
The Nine Pound Hammer is a fun and exciting steampunk adventure that is equal parts funny, scary, and awesome—especially the many action sequences sure to keep readers on the edge of their seat. Full confession: the Ninja is old and out of touch and has never read steampunk before now. Yes, you are right to condemn me, Esteemed Reader. But if the rest of steampunk is anywhere near as good as this book, you can bet I will be reading more.

It’s a little bit difficult for me to review this book as
Elizabeth K.
This should be three and a half stars (I don't know why I am so perpetually annoyed by not having half stars on goodreads, but whatev).

I very much liked the set-up here, American fantasy set in the late 19th century and very much drawn from actual American tropes, both mythological and real -- the rise of the railroads and steam engines and John Henry and Indians and medicine shows and bottle trees and mechanical engineering and robber barons and the Mississippi and orphan trains and more.

It op
Hafsah Laziaf
--Review by my 12 year old brother--

It's been eight years since Ray Cobb's dad dissapeared on a "job of work". As an orphan, Ray has had much diffuculty surviving with his younger sister Sally and fears that she won't get a proper family with Ray hanging around and decides to leave her at an orphanage. Once he leaves her, Ray has no clue what to do, and gets lost in the woods. There, he meets a young giant and an escape artist.

Little did he know that meeting these two would be the start of one
The Nine Pound Hammer is set in a world of myths and magic. The main character, Ray Fleming, is dragged into the mysteries and adventures of this new world, uncovering secrets at each turn. I decided to read this book when my sister recommended it to me, and it was surprisingly interesting and well-written! There are very few faults that I found with this book.

The book starts when Ray thinks he needs to leave his little sister. He thought that she could possibly have a better chance of finding a
Tom Franklin
Not-exactly Steampunk, this adventure tale is set in the US during the Victorian era. Between the side show acts and the root-work potents, there were plenty of ways for a band of travelling performers to ride the rails and earn a living.

Bemis gives his story a bit of a supernatural twist with the performers all being children of former "Ramblers", an anonymous Justice League of their day who all disappeared after a vicious fight between the legendary John Henry and a steam-driven machine. The t
Books Ahoy
Hey! Here's the first review for The Clockwork Dark Experience. Today I'm reviewing The Nine Pound Hammer by John Claude Bemis. One word......AMAZING! Here's an summary:"What if John Henry had a son? Twelve-year-old Ray is haunted by the strangest memories of his father, whom Ray swears could speak to animals. Now an orphan, Ray jumps from a train going through the American South and falls in with a medicine show train and its stable of sideshow performers. The performers turn out to be heroes, ...more
Dan Shonka
This first book of the Clockwork Dark series sets the stage. Interestingly, one of the main characters is the son of John Henry of American folklore fame. There's a strong vein of fantasy running through the storyline, however the interactions between the characters is certainly the main focus. This is an entertaining page-turner, and the end leaves the reader wanting more. There are interesting twists, and some surprising, grim events, too. Don't delay. Advance! Go for book two, The Wolf Tree.
Sarah W
When twelve-year-old Ray abandons his sister Sally to the care of Miss Corey on the orphan train, he thinks he is increasing her chances of finding a good home. After he recovers from jumping off the movie train, Ray wanders through the woods, guided only by a lodestone his father gave him before disappearing eight years earlier. During his wandering, Ray rescues a strange man named Peter Hobnob.

Ray finds himself trapped between two bear cubs and their mother. A tall young man named Conker carr
Nov 24, 2009 Greg rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Young teenagers
Not bad for a book targeted to young teens. While it was clearly oriented to that age level, I think when I was a teen, I would have really enjoyed this book. The Nine Pound Hammer is the first in a trilogy that weaves old American legends (John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, etc.) into a modern retelling and reimagining of those legendary figures. For example, the machine conquered by John Henry in the legend is, in this retelling, the embodiment of evil (Magog), given life and directed by a man boun ...more
Jo Sorrell
What if the legend of John Henry was more than just a story? And what is really up with the machine she died trying to beat?

Twelve-year-old Ray is haunted by the strangest memories of his father, whom Ray swears could speak to animals. Now an orphan, Ray jumps from a train going through the American South and falls in with a medicine show train and its stable of sideshow performers. The performers turn out to be heroes, defenders of the wild, including the son of John Henry. They are hiding the
While it might make sense for the older orphan in this story to abandone his sister, it felt contrived, and I just couldn't stand another casual abandonment. I may well come back to this book - it does seem otherwise appealling. I just can't get past the imitial abandonement right now.
I like the idea of the book, but there was SO much detail it was hard to get through most of the time. The beginning was difficult to hook me in, but by chapter 10 it started to grow on me. I feel that the author idolizes Tolkien, because he could spend half a page just talking about the hilt of a knife.
Loved the idea of an epic fantasy based in Americana! Writing was okay, especially shaky in the beginning. But I was definitely swept up in the story and characters. Though the big-bad reminded me of that Will Smith western flick... what was it called? So a familiar trope.
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From the author website;
I’ve always been fascinated by trains. My grandfather hopped trains all over the country in his “hobo days” and filled my head with curious stories of America’s lost past. Those stories, I suppose, were the beginnings of my first novel, The Nine Pound Hammer.

I grew up in rural eastern North Carolina by a swampy creek on the Neuse River. Yes, I’ve been bitten by a water mocc
More about John Claude Bemis...

Other Books in the Series

The Clockwork Dark (3 books)
  • The Wolf Tree (The Clockwork Dark #2)
  • The White City (The Clockwork Dark #3)
The Prince Who Fell from the Sky The Wolf Tree (The Clockwork Dark #2) The White City (The Clockwork Dark #3) The Mystifying Medicine Show The Wooden Prince

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