The Nine Pound Hammer (The Clockwork Dark, #1)
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The Nine Pound Hammer (The Clockwork Dark #1)

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  365 ratings  ·  96 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...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by Bluefire (first published 2009)
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Krys
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.
Tripp
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...more
Chris
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...more
Angie
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...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.
Cheryl
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.
Ashley
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.
Greg
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.
Jennifer
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.
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...more
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...more
Jess
Stars: 3.75 stars
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Did I like it? Yeah, it was pretty good.
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Six word summary: Gog is (view spoiler)
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Rating: PG
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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.
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Praises: Has a cool legend-y feeling. Also, the geographical transition from north-eastern US to the South was great.
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Summary: Ray an...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Alison
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...more
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...more
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...more
Greg
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...more
Hope
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.
Brinlee
This story is about an orphan named Ray. Ray and his sister were trying to get adopted, but Ray felt that since he was already older(12) he was destroying his sisters chance of getting adopted by a good family. While all the orphans were moving to find a new home Ray ran away. He found a 'traveling medicine show' made up of a strange group of people selling remedies from town to town while living and traveling on a train. Ray gets kidnapped by the pirate queen who he eventually befriends and lat...more
Jana
Meeeeeeehhhhh. That's all this book was for me. It was distinctly average, though I'd have no doubts that a child would have fun reading it. The mythology was great, though, and while I wouldn't be actively seeking out the sequel, I'd pick it up if I were to discover it one day, just to see more of how the author would continue this world-building.
Susan
Perhaps 4.5. Very well written book whose subject I see best-suited for a teen but who's style and complexity would leave it open for younger readers as well- thus the library cataloging it in both YA and Juvenile, I am sure. :-) As another reviewer put it, this book is American folklore smashed enthusiastically with Clockpunk Fantasy. At its heart, it's a story of youths with rough beginnings who work hard to make it in the world and do some good for themselves and others. Kudos to the author f...more
Rattyfleef
Writing was often clunky. Plot felt contrived in the early stages but later picked up steam (*snort*) and improved immensely. Really liked the close friendship between the main crew.

BUT seriously. Big problems with stereotypes, particularly in that troublesome first third of the book. It tries to tell a tall tale, a larger than life, and the stereotypes hurt that attempt. It aimed for familiar legend but tripped and fell into tropes instead. I did some huffing and eye-rolling at a few places, a...more
Erik
A fun, nicely written book with a Carnivàle flair and lots of hoodoo and creepy southern folklore. Regardless of some occasional groan-worthy dialogue and dislikeable characters, this was a captivating action-driven story with a great sense of time and place. The underlying themes of industrialization, dehumanization, and individuality are cleverly injected, not overblown, and are sure to reach the intended age group. I recently moderated this book with a teen book at my library, and everyone se...more
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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
More about John Claude Bemis...
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 Alchemist's Son

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