J.'s Reviews > The Clockwork Three

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby
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Sep 12, 14

bookshelves: fiction-ya, vine
Read from January 22 to 31, 2011

Guiseppe spends his days as a busker playing violin on the street corners and hoping to earn enough for the meager food and shelter provided by his evil padrone, Stephano. But when he finds the beautiful green violin in the washed up debris from a shipwreck he begins to dream that there might be a way to return to his home in Italy. Hannah works as a maid in a beautiful downtown hotel, waiting on and cleaning up after the wealthy who are oblivious to her plight as the only means of support for her family after her father suffered a stroke. She learns of a treasure hidden by a former guest, and hopes to find it and save her family from the streets. And Frederick works as an apprentice clockmaker for Master Branch, who saved him from a workhouse/orphanage. He is perhaps most comfortable but he burns with a desire to prove himself and works secretly on a clockwork automaton in the form of a man in the hope it will help him make journeyman, allowing him to open his own shop. But all three of their paths eventually cross and they join to help each other in this story with a basis in real historical events of 1870s New York.

A couple months ago my family and I were in a bookstore and my 8 year old daughter made a bit of a fuss over this book (I was able to obtain an advance reader copy from Amazon Vine instead). After she and I started reading it together I realized that it's a bit over her head - more on a reading level for my 11 year old daughter (I think the recommendation of grades 5-8 is very appropriate). But once I began reading it on my own I couldn't put it down. The story starts a bit slow as it rotates among the three children who are seemingly unconnected to one another, but soon enough you're easily drawn into their lives and the troubles they face.

But while the story is good and will certainly appeal strongly to kids, it's Matthew Kirby's writing that I found especially captivating. It's books and writers like this that make me think that YA fiction is too often underrated. Mr. Kirby's words have a magical color and life to them that breathes life into the story, leaving even adults in the grip of a tale they can't put down. He's a very talented writer and I look forward to more from him (there were a few loose ends here, making me hope there might be room for more from this story). Highly recommended.
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