Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Kronos Chronicles #1

The Cabinet of Wonders

Rate this book
Marie Rutkoski's startling debut novel, the first book in the Kronos Chronicles, about the risks we take to protect those we love, brims with magic, political intrigue, and heroism.

Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it's never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world's finest astronomical clock.

Petra's life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home – blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn't know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father's eyes back.

Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father's clock has powers capable of destroying their world.

258 pages, Hardcover

First published August 5, 2008

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Marie Rutkoski

32 books8,156 followers
Marie Rutkoski is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for children and young adults, including THE HOLLOW HEART (September 14, 2021). Her debut for adults, REAL EASY (January 18, 2022), is a psychological thriller.

Born in Illinois, Marie holds degrees from the University of Iowa and Harvard University. She is currently a professor at Brooklyn College and lives in Brooklyn with her family.


(photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan)

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,527 (32%)
4 stars
1,863 (39%)
3 stars
1,059 (22%)
2 stars
224 (4%)
1 star
93 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 577 reviews
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,744 followers
August 15, 2008
It seems to me that today's average everyday fantasy author for kids has to walk a delicate line. You want to create an alternative history novel laden with magical elements? Fair enough. Here is the choice set before you. Nine times out of ten books of this sort, whether they're of the steampunk variety or the more common knights + wizardry type stuff, are written for kids thirteen and up. Think about it. The King of Attolia books, Philip Reeve's Larklight series, Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy), and so on and such. All of these are mature books for mature readers. They deal with large themes, long complicated plots, and dark motivations. So do you skew your book older or younger? Really, when you sit down and think about it, Marie Rutkoski's new series The Kronos Chronicles is a rare beastie. In her first installment The Cabinet of Wonders, Rutkoski opts for the younger end of the spectrum, combining just the right mix of kid fantasy within a well-planned historical setting. I'm as tired of new otherworldly series as the rest of you, but Rutkoski's new world is crisp and smart enough to win over even the most jaded fantasy fan.

When they brought her father home with bloody bandages over his eyes, that's when Petra Kronos got good and mad. Her father was given a remarkable commission: construct a clock for the prince himself in Prague. But instead of showering her father with gifts and praise upon its completion, the prince plucks out his eyes so as to make them his own (and prevent her dad from creating anything quite as nice again). Yet the clock is more than it seems. With the potential to control the weather itself, the Prince knows full well how powerful he could be if he just managed to put together the final piece. Now Petra is determined to steal back her father's eyes before that happens, even if it means befriending the Roma, sneaking into the palace, helping a woman who can leak acid through her skin, and reluctantly working alongside the magician and spy John Dee. Fortunately she has her tin spider Astrophil by her side and a host of talents that even she has been unaware of until now.

One of the problems I've had with a lot of fantasy novels lately is just how bloody long they are. Blame Harry Potter, blame Twilight, blame whoever you like but the fact of the matter is that a lot of authors aren't taking the hint that sometimes your novel really doesn't have to be 300+ pages. Now let's take a gander at The Cabinet of Wonders. Coming in at a trim 258 Rutkoski could have explained at length about everything from Petra's mother's death to the girl's experiences with her in-laws while her father was away. Instead we are plopped into the story midstream and Rutkoski has a clear enough sense of the story she's telling to fill the small background details along the way. The result is a story that moves at a quick clip but never hurries so quickly that you loose the plot's thread or get confused about where things are going. In spite of the fact that you are reading yet another book about a motherless daughter whose doting scientific father pays her little heed, this territory is still relatively new.

I was a bit partial to the writing too. Just because the author isn't indulging in ludicrous fripperies doesn't mean that she hasn't an ear for a keen description once in a while. Check out this quickie encapsulation of our heroine's eyes. "Petra's eyes were gray - or, to be more precise, they were silvery, like they each had been made with liquid metal anchored in a bright circle by a black center." More interesting still, Rutkoski sometimes makes the executive decision to switch point of view willy-nilly between Petra and someone near her. Interestingly enough, the person she does this with the most is the evil prince. Making the executive decision to enter the head of your villain is something we've been seeing a lot of in children's literature lately (see: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt) and is always a risk. You could go too far and confuse the reader with this change of personality. Rutkoski's transitions aren't as smooth as they could be, but they ultimately serve the tale she's telling and don't go so far as to hurt it or anything.

As the Author's Note at the end is careful to point out, the book takes place during the European Renaissance at the end of the sixteenth century in Bohemia, part of the Hapsburg Empire. In this note Ms. Rutkoski mentions that she was at first a little worried that people would take issue with the way in which she has "manhandled history". She has little to fear. Historical fiction is one thing. Pseudo-historical fantasy another altogether (though I'd be willing to debate with someone on this point). So while she may not be 100% accurate at all times I doubt anyone would demand it of her. In any case, she works in enough real details to give the book spice. I was particularly pleased with the moment when John Dee shows Petra a painting of Queen Elizabeth that shows her wearing a yellow dress covered in eyes and ears. It sounds like just another fantastical idea on the page, but the actual image (known as The Rainbow Portrait) is rather famous and well worth searching out.

Let's talk gypsies. Over the years I've shuddered each and every time I've seen them in a work of children's fiction. Gypsies are like fairies or elves to most authors. You just throw them into a plot and hope that they end up kidnapping kids/telling fortunes at some point. There's never any acknowledgment that there are real Gypsies in the world, nor any complexity to their characters. So it was that I was amazed at how careful Rutkoski was with her Gypsy (which is to say, Roma) characters. In her Author's Note she acknowledges their past and the fact that they are "certainly real". And when she uses them in the book, it's almost as if she's mocking those old literary tropes. A Roma woman does indeed offer to tell Petra her future but when the girl politely refuses it's seen as the correct action. What's more, I loved how Neel would work Roma stories into the narrative alongside concepts like the "idea of zero". There's a lot going on here, and it's handled with evident care.

There isn't exactly a lack of child-friendly fantasies out there, sure. But we've finally gotten to the point where the Harry Potter wannabes have slacked off a little, leaving room for other kinds of series. And as for fantasies written with the 9-12 year-olds in mind, The Cabinet of Wonders is joining books like Savvy and Out of the Wild to entertain our slightly younger readers. With enough originality to choke a nag, Rutkoski firmly establishes herself as a new author to watch. I'll keep an eye eagerly peeled for her future books.

Ages 9 and up.
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 146 books83.2k followers
December 14, 2009
A fascinating book in which magic education is restricted in Bohemia (roughly similar to the Czech Republic before WWI) to nobles only, and those who aren't noble manage as best as they can. When Prince Rudolf steals Petra Kronos's father's eyes after her father builds a clock that could control weather, Petra runs away with her living mechanical spider to steal them back. In Prague she makes friends with a Romany (Gypsy) family, particularly Neel and his sister Sadie, who help her to get work in the castle. There she meets a wizard who has days when her skin oozes acid, the spy from England, Dr. Dee, and the prince himself, when he's wearing her father's eyes.

There is so much that is cool about this book--glass bombs that release wasps or waves, swap-able eyes, living mechanical animals, and the invention of a new primary color! Now I just have to wait for the second book. ::sigh::
Profile Image for Lucy .
343 reviews34 followers
August 26, 2009
Petra Kronos lives an unusual life, but a happy one. She lives in a small Czech village with her father, an artisan who can move metal with his mind and works with invisible tools. When her father is commissioned by the prince to build a marvelous clock, he goes off to Prague—and comes back blinded. The prince has stolen his eyes. Even worse, the prince now has control of a clock that has the power to control the weather.

Petra doesn’t know a lot about the world, but she knows this: she will go to Prague and somehow steal back her father’s eyes. It’s a tall task, but she won’t be alone—she has the companionship for Astrophil, her tin pet spider, and the help of Neel, a Roma boy with fingers that extend into invisible ghosts that can pick locks.

What I like about this book: pretty much everything. Petra is a wonderful character—spunky, determined, immensely likeable, and often entirely naïve about the way the world works. What’s wonderful about this book is that people call her on it—when she plans to do something ridiculous, like, say, sneak into the prince’s castle and steal back her father’s eyes, that doesn’t get to be something that makes sense. She’s young and sheltered, and sometimes that’s why she succeeds—even when odds are against her.

I also love how sometimes this book nods at clichéd plot points and then moves past them. Like when Petra first goes to Prague, she cuts off her hair, to blend in as a boy—a classic spunky heroine move—and then discovers that no one is really fooled, and life would have been somewhat easier if she had just kept her hair and called herself a girl from the start.

The flavor of Marie Rutkoski’s Czechoslovakia is also delicious, and unlike anything else I’ve ever read. A changing Europe with a dangerous prince who courts danger and foments unrest among his people. The commonplace feel of magical talents—and the nature of those talents is fantastic. Invisible ghost fingers that can pick locks. The ability to move metal with your mind.

Marie Rutkoski has a gorgeously creative imagination, and this is a beautiful book. It’s the sort of novel that feels solidly based on a history only slightly different from our own—it feels like it might have been true in some parallel universe. It’s lush with detail—even the little things—and feels like a full literary meal.

Cabinet of Wonders has a solid ending and stands comfortably alone, but is clearly the first in a trilogy (says so right on the cover) and I am eager and hungry for more from Marie Rutkoski.

Profile Image for Erika.
189 reviews
January 22, 2009
I think this book felt a bit immature. Not in terms of ideas and writing style, because obviously this book is meant for children and so isn't going to be "mature" in that sense. The ideas were great, though I think the author lifted heavily from other young adult fantasy books, most notably His Dark Materials (Astrophil felt kind of like a non-soul tin Pantalaimon to a very Lyra-esque Petra). I think mostly everything seemed to come together too easily - Petra never really had any difficulties doing anything - she simply decided upon a certain course of action, and then did everything she needed to without any true sense of complication. With the exception of the final escape scene there was no real sense of peril surrounding her otherwise dangerous quest. I just didn't feel terribly drawn in, and was a bit disappointed because I really liked the concept and all the fairly original fantastic elements in it but I just didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped and wanted to.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,005 followers
June 5, 2009
I hesitated to give this four stars, as the heroine Petra was a pretty generic YA-fantasy bright and plucky lass who showed little development. And of course she almost immediately met up with a clever and jolly gypsy to help in her quest. What is it with fantasy writers and gypsies?! One, there were never so many friendly, helpful gyspsies around that so many protagonists should have them as sidekicks, and Two, just because most people have never met any doesn't mean that it is ok for authors to continually stereotype them. But happily, Rutkoski does have some original twists on magic use and some great imagery. Her villainous prince and the sinister English diplomat Dee are more complex and interesting than her heroes (even if Dee has been stolen from history by many a writer prior). This was also a pretty quick read so I'm happy to continue the series and see if there is a bit more character development in later books.
7 reviews1 follower
November 17, 2011
this was a page turner. it really hard to put down. i liked this book for several reasons my top reason is it was CREATIVE. talking spiders, magic clocks, stolen eyes a whole mish mash of creative fun. my faveriout part is a the begining when petra finds out the the prince has stolen her fathers eyes. she want revenge...
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,207 followers
November 18, 2015
I love, love books with strong, spunky heroines. And The Cabinet of Wonders has one of the spunkiest heroines out there. She’s not infallible, in fact, she’s entirely too fallible but there is a charm to her that draws you into her world and keeps you there right beside her as she has escapades that would make any respectable mama swoon. Petra’s father, as you will know from the summary, has been relieved of his..uh…eyes by the boy-prince of the country in which he lives. So Petra decides to get them back. It’s a foolhardy and almost impossible plan but Petra’s not one to let little things like impossibilities slow her down.

The book is a glorious read. The pace is fast at times and honeyed at others. The fictional and real world intersperse brilliantly and you can almost believe that such a world once existed somewhere in time. The characters, all of them, are so awesomely crafted, their detail, their characteristics, the subtleties within their personalities – they are a pleasure to read. There is no real romance right now and I am sort of glad because Petra is, to me, not at that age where she is distracted by the notion of boys being more than playmates (we start off with Petra being 12). But there’s a promise of it from two different boys who are going to hopefully turn into interesting men once the books continue.

The intrigue is well layered so that even at the end of the book, the promise of the future is delicious on your tongue and you can’t help but imagine what other hijinks Petra will get into. And oh, there are mechanical spiders, puppies and monkeys – steampunk-ish. You can’t lose with this book, guys. Marie Rutkoski’s debut novel joins the ranks of much loved spunky-heroines-shelves that contains other gems such as Julia Golding’s Cat Royal series, Stephanie Burgis’s Kat series and Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer.
Profile Image for Alison Livingston.
99 reviews6 followers
August 15, 2009
Four chapters. That is all I give books these days. If it hasn't captured my interest by chapter four I put the book down.

The Cabinet of Wonders has a great story idea, but ultimately I could not get over the poor writing. I know the book was written for children, and thus more simplistic, but there are so many adjectives in the story as to render imagination bored and rote. An example: "She went into a room with a square window" Okay, I don't know about you, but I assume windows are generally going to be square, and if it isn't square, then let me know. Also if you are going to mention a window at all, it should be because the window is going to play a role later. That's a petty example, I know but the book is bursting with too much word fat. Not only that, but almost every conversation was artificial. The main character's father comes through the door with an old bloody bandage over his eyes, having had them gouged out by the prince and their pet mechanical spider asks him what the palace library is like! Huh? Then the father goes on to talking like he's not phased at all by being blinded and having to be pack-carted home by two thungs.

It just didn't ring true. It feels to me like this woman either speaks English as a second language or she somehow got her first or second draft of this thing published (and not the 10th-20th draft it takes to finish a good novel).

I am sad because the story was interesting and the author looks like a cutie pie, so I am sorry this one didn't work out. After four chapters I was done.

Profile Image for Shelli.
360 reviews76 followers
February 17, 2017
Overall, this book was a delight, at least to this early-50s-but-a-child-at-heart reader. Author Marie Rutkoski is a skilled world builder if a little uneven – 12-year-old protagonist Petra Kronos's hometown was non-descript and evoked absolutely no imagery in my usually very active imagination, but Salamander Castle in Prague (where a good chunk of the action – a little more than half, I believe – takes place) is lavishly conveyed. Details of layout, lighting, architecture, clothing, faces, etc. were exquisitely described, but skillfully imparted also were the moods and overall "personality" of different sections of the castle: the stables, the prince's private quarters, the dye-mixing lab in which Petra works. This imbalance in the care taken toward the verbal illustration of the palace vs. the lack of the same for the other locales (even Prague on the outside of the castle) wasn't really noticed until I finished the book, but then it explained why I just didn't find the earlier part of the book nearly as vivid or enthralling.

The author has obviously done a lot of research, as this can certainly be considered to be in the general realm of historical fantasy. She's used the folklore of the astronomical clock in Prague and the general framework of the Habsburg dynasty to situate her story, and in general she does a great job of convincingly weaving her narrative into 16th century Bohemia. However, there were a couple of glaring anachronisms that really bothered me, because they both will mislead young readers into believing wildly incorrect historical facts. Now, please understand, I'm not being a super anal-retentive stickler here – I don't mind at all if the characters use speech out of time, or if minor details don't fit, such as a character wearing a type of hat that was not invented until 200 years later. But these two stick out more than that.

First, apparently young people in Rutkoski's 16th century Czech Republic have no sense of the concept of zero, as Petra's companion Neel describes it to her utter amazement, and claims its invention/discovery as one of his people's, the Roma (a.k.a. gypsies). Well, the use of zero mathematically – and even its name – was introduced to Europe nearly 500 years before, so I doubt that a reasonably well-educated child of 12 would be be hearing of it for the first time in the timeframe of The Cabinet of Wonders. (Nor can I find any evidence that the Roma had anything to do with it.)

The second example may be more or less egregious, depending on how late in the 16th century the book is set. In addition to being utterly gobsmacked by zero, Petra has also never heard of the theory that our solar system is heliocentric. Copernicus published his groundbreaking book on the subject earlier that same century, and since Petra and her father (who are effectively magical metallurgists) are fairly knowledgeable about European happenings – especially with regard to science and magic – I am unconvinced that Petra would have not heard of Copernicus's work, since it raised quite a hullabaloo in European society.

The thing that gets me is that neither of these false revelations have ANYTHING to do with the plot, and are really just conversational fillers. In that case, why bother to create these alternative narratives around historical facts that kids will actually need to know the truth of in their future educational careers? I realize I dedicated a lot of words to this when I know it sounds kind of petty, and many of you might argue that I'm nitpicking. If you totally remove the issue of kids remembering these untruths once it's time to really learn about them in their academic careers, you're still left with what it does to the flow of the narrative, which is jolt you right out of it. The best example I can invent on the spot is something like this: Imagine that in the Harry Potter series, everything is exactly the same as Rowling wrote it, but for no reason connected to any plot points, she made the river that goes through London be the Danube rather than the Thames. That would not advance the fantastical plot elements a whit, and would instead make you say, "Huh?" and wonder if it was some weird mind-lapse typo and why an editor didn't catch it.

But my major complaint about The Cabinet of Wonders was the occasional contradictions in Petra's and Neel's (the main characters') behavior. This is likely a problem all authors writing young heroes have to grapple with, and I am likely particularly sensitive to it because I just came off of extremely glaring examples in the persons of Teo and Renzo in The Undrowned Child, where protagonist kids are intelligent and resourceful beyond their years, only to show up in the next chapter acting like petulant kindergarteners that you want to send to their rooms for a long timeout. This drives me nuts, and is actually the main detractor for me of the book at hand. Petra is appealing and smart and brave, but not so much so that she is unbelievable or a caricature. Neel on the other hand may be a little bit over the top – cocksure and undamaged by his rather rough upbringing and childhood losses and quite jaded for being barely out of his tweens. So there they are, each living independently and supporting themselves while plotting a daring heist and escape against a sovereign monarch and his entire armed forces, but then they'll get into an argument, and you'll seriously think they've both been suddenly possessed by hysterical, attitudinal toddlers that have dirty diapers and are 2 hours late for their bottle. These supposedly awesome, amazing kids occasionally turn SO infantile (in Petra's case, not only to Neel but to another character introduced midway through the book), that not only do you lose your respect, admiration, and empathy for them, but you straight up have the urge to smack them. As I said, I'm sure every author writing kids must work to find the balance between keeping a child hero relatable and age-appropriate, while still imbuing them with maturity and the special qualities needed to make them heroic. The operative word there is balance – a successful child hero cannot be bipolarly alternating between being preternaturally awesome and throwing temper tantrums section to section.

Fortunately, Petra and Neel aren't always as extreme as the worst-case-scenario prototype I detailed above, but Petra in particular is devalued in the readers' minds each time she reverts to being so pointlessly childish. (Advance notice: the situation actually worsens considerably in the next book in the series, The Celestial Globe, with Petra spending a long period of individual time with someone she is unrelentingly babyishly hostile toward, while Neel, on the other hand, all but morphs into a swashbuckling Errol Flynn.)

Thankfully, no other characters veer toward unbelievable (and unpalatable) extremes, but are well-fleshed-out with understandable motivations. The highlight for me in the cast of characters was definitely Astrophil, Petra's wise, mechanical spider companion. The plot is engaging and well-paced, and, as I said at the beginning, takes place in a version of our past where magic infuses life, both enhancing and complicating it.

My rating is really a 3.5 as opposed to a 3. I'll definitely be checking out more of Rutkowski's works – maybe ones without children. ;-)
Profile Image for Toby.
1,614 reviews59 followers
June 5, 2020
Four dazzling, startling blood-red (blood-read?) stars from this fairytale-myth-alternative history-fantasy novel! This was my first book by Rutkoski but it definitely will not be my last (I have two more from the library currently waiting for me! so I don't say that lightly).

This was an interesting read, an alternate history that takes place in and around Prague. It was more gory than I expected from the reading level/cover (it's an older MG/early YA) but not to the level of horror. It just reminded me a bit of the uncensored/real fairytales (not the Disney-softened nonsense). Brutal, harsh, gory, and frighteningly eerie. But lovely.

Rutkoski also initiates a brief conversation about racism in this book, which starts with Petra's use of the phrase "Gypsy," Neel's correction of it, and how Petra learns how people treat Neel differently because of the color of his skin and because he is Roma. I liked how she brought awareness to this while keeping it of a tone that still allowed me to suspend disbelief. It didn't feel like a blaring lecture, as it so easily could have.

Book 2 is on my shelf waiting for me. I'm excited to pick it up!
Profile Image for Lisa Nocita.
1,010 reviews2 followers
August 6, 2010
The young Prince has commissioned a special clock to be made in his honor. But in his haste and greed, he wrongly assumes the clock has been finished to his specifications. He has the eyes of the clockmaker removed so that he cannot make another like it for anyone else. However, the clock is not finished and will not do all that the Prince desires. But the Prince decides that he wants to finish the clock himself and can do so with the eyes of the maker guiding him. The clockmaker is returned home, blinded. It is rumored that the Prince keeps the eyes in his Cabinet of Wonders. If the clock should ever be finished, it will change the balance of power in the kingdom and have far reaching consequences for the world. His young daughter, Petra, decides to take matters into her own hands to restore her father's sight. She slips away to the Castle intending to steal back her father's eyes. She is a clever and likable protagonist. Along the way, she enlists the help of new friends. Part alternative history, part fantasy, Cabinet of Wonders promises to be the first in a new series. Although you may have to suspend your disbelief a bit, it is a fast read with plenty of suspense and intrigue.
Profile Image for Emma Rogers.
29 reviews8 followers
October 5, 2014
I really enjoyed this book, I grabbed it when I was at the library because Marie Rutkoski wrote one of my recent favorites; "The Winner's Curse". There's always a danger in reading more of an author after you love one of their books so very much, sometimes it's great but mostly it's a big let down. This book, however, was amazing. It was so different and fun, Petra, our young heroine, reminded me of Arya from Game of Thrones, and feisty, brave young girls are always fun to root for. I loved this reimagining of the tale of the famous clock tower in Prague, I'm sure we've all heard the legend of the man who was blinded after completing the clock so he could never build anything so beautiful again and I love that Rutkoski took this idea and ran with it and expanded on it in such a marvelous unique way. I loved the characters, there was such a great array of them, from the brilliant scholarly metal spider who was Petra's constant companion, to the little Gypsy boy with more sass in his pinky finger than I have in my entire body, the prince who is insane and beguiling, and Iris who was so loud and grumpy yet so lonely and kind.
I really can't wait to get my hands on the next book.
Profile Image for PeeEyeBee.
78 reviews6 followers
May 13, 2010
Fun But Awkward

Mechanical animals that are just like real animals only they can talk (and only live on oil made from wildflowers), people whose natural skills are augmented by magic, silver eyes that can be plucked from someone else's head and then exchanged for another's like any accessory, this is the quirky, whimsical world of Rutkoski's Cabinet of Wonders.

A little bit steampunk, a little bit historical adventure, and maybe a tad less enjoyable than I wanted it to be at times, it's still a book that the young and the young-at-heart and possibly even the surgically young of face will find engrossing. Personally, I found the heroine of the story, Petra, to be a little too reckless/oblivious for someone who's supposed to be so intelligent - maybe the plot tangles came off a little too contrived and choppy to sit well with me?

Maybe I'm looking for a little too much, philosophically, in a book that's meant for kids? Damn straight!
Profile Image for Ruby.
606 reviews48 followers
August 19, 2015
Petra's father has magic to bring metal to life. He made her tin spider Astro and her best friend's dog along with several other critters that wander around their village. It is when her father builds a huge clock for the prince that things go bad. The prince orders his wizard to remove Petra's father's eyes and sends him back to the village blind. Without his eyes, how are they suppose to live and what does the prince need with them anyway? It's high time Petra found out.

This is a charming story filled with adventure and heart. Petra is a brave and often misunderstood girl with her little pal, Astro mumbling useful knowledge in her ear. Her partner in crime is a thief named Neel, who possesses the magic of ghost fingers, which allow entry into just about anywhere. Full of mystery and fun, this first story in the Kronos Chronicles is a gem for readers of all ages.
Profile Image for Angela.
1,180 reviews22 followers
January 23, 2009
Miss the magic of Harry Potter? Hunger for the smartness of The Mysterious Benedict Society? Looking for the next Lightning Thief to take you on a fantastical adventure? Cabinet of Wonders should fill the void, for now.

Here's what our Kid Critic, Rachel, age 10 has to say about it:

"This book was a very good book! There is a lot of tension & waiting, but when you get to the last few chapters there is a lot of excitement. This book is about a girl named Petra Kronos. When her father returns home from the palace, blind, she hatches a daring plan to go to the city and steal back her father's eyes. But, she finds out that his eyes are the key to a plot to the throne of the whole empire. It's an exciting read and I enjoyed it."
Profile Image for david y biblioflick.
364 reviews38 followers
December 14, 2015
Just brilliant. Sometimes, YA is too complicated, or trying to be complicated... and sometimes even repeating some ideas over and over again with an over powered heroine plus a "jaw dropping" twistsss, even with those concepts, they still received five stars and overhyped. That's why I'm reading children and sometimes adult sci-fi novels.

This book is aimed mostly for children, with it's light but quite good plot. The heroine is on par with the villain. And even with no twist in the end, this book is really good. Looking forward towards the next book.

This book have some flaws, the ending, for me became fast paced and the eyes being a just bothers me a bit.
Profile Image for Annie Oosterwyk.
1,741 reviews12 followers
August 11, 2016
I've been looking for a book club selection for my middle school and this may be it. I can't believe I picked up this book so late.
The writing is terrific, with deep concepts presented often enough to make you jerk back out of the story and think, "WOW". The plot is seamless and so interesting I read until the wee hours to finish. The characters are real and multifaceted.
I couldn't believe my library only had the first book, so I ordered the rest of the series myself. I am looking at them right now and know how the rest of my weekend will be spent.
Profile Image for ~♥~ Sil.
366 reviews6 followers
May 12, 2015

Praga. Siglo XVI. Magia. Una niña valiente que intentará devolverle a su padre algo que nunca debería haberle quitado, con ello conoceremos a grandes personajes, sin duda una mezcla para un lectura muy entretenida.
Profile Image for Pop Bop.
2,475 reviews101 followers
July 20, 2018
A Breath of Fresh Air

I was a bit hesitant about this book at first. The cover, the blurbs, and the general vibe suggested that it would be light on action, character and style and might tilt rather toward gearhead steampunk, alternate Bohemian history, and court intrigue. Well, please excuuuuuse me for being too quick to judge. Within a few chapters, (and certainly once we get to Prague), we have a ripping action/adventure, a feisty and resourceful heroine, and practical magic that is charming and yet muscular. The tin spider sidekick is also deadpan funny and a fully realized character in its own right, which was a completely unexpected bonus.

This isn't wand and wizard stuff; it entails more of an earth/elemental magic in which artisans can use magic to create above and beyond the norm. So, you get sentient metal pets, intuitive music boxes, metal work with intrinsic magical properties, and so on. Indeed, it's sort of a very fun variation on all of the STEM oriented books we've been seeing recently. Between the mechanical marvels, the magic power sources, the clever inventions, the gears and clockwork, and the other "wonders" this is like a pre-Enlightenment fantasy STEM book, with the bonus of a plucky heroine and some especially engaging characters.

So, while it may be that if you boil down the plot to its absolute basics this could appear to be a same-old same-old quest adventure, it turns out that the book has a number of engaging zigs and entertaining zags, and a crisp, fast paced adventure vibe that sets it nicely on the younger, and sometimes underserved, end of the magical action scale. That made it a nice find for me.

This is the first book in a series, but you can read it as a standalone. By the end the basic story arc, (the quest for the return of Dad's eyes), has been resolved. Prince Rudolpho is still out there though, as is slimy John Dee, and more adventures await; it seems to me that the reader could dive back in or not depending on how he or she felt about the series as a whole.
Profile Image for Wren.
617 reviews
December 21, 2014
Welcome to Book City
Date: December 21, 2014

Spoilers Ahead

The Cabinet of Wonders
Marie Rutkoski

Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it’s never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world’s finest astronomical clock.

Petra’s life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home—blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn’t know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father’s eyes back.

Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father’s clock has powers capable of destroying their world.

City Calendar:
This is what happened during the week.
Petra's father comes back without his eyes. Petra visits her friend Tomik who shows her glass balls that he used to trap a wasp and lightning. Petra starts sleeping late. She gets money for two Worry Vials that Tomik's father Tomas makes. Tomas comes with glass eyes for Petra's father. It rains sand, and lightning strikes. Petra goes with Lucie Tomik's sister and her fiancée Pavel to Prague. She leaves them when she arrives. She is pickpocketed by Neel a Roma. She saves Neel from being put in jail. Neel brings Petra to his sister Sadie. After that, they head to the wagons belonging to Neel and Sadie's group. Astrophil sleeps and reveals himself by accident. Petra gets a job as a kitchen in the castle. She is fired and goes into the Dye Room with Mistress Iris. She works with Iris, making different colors. Iris has an acid attack because she sweats acid. Petra gets a day off while Iris calms down. She sees Neel who works in the stables. They visit the garden. Petra gets a pass to the library to research minerals. She asks Sadie about residents or guests with Worry Vials. Iris makes a new primary color for the prince. She gets to the fourth floor. With Neel, they steal the captain of the guard's Worry Vial. They use water to get some worries and find out where Petra's father's eyes are hidden. Emil catches her, making her flee back to the castle. The prince's birthday happens. Petra sees fireworks for the first time. She talks to Dee an English spy. She makes a blood oath with Neel and tells him the truth about the clock her father made. She gets a job as a maid to the prince. She stays in Iris's room one day. Astrophil her spider gets caught by the prince. Petra and Neel break into the Cabinet of Wonders. She finds her father's eyes and the heart of the clock Dee was looking for. She destroys the heart and flees. They find Iris's room. The mistress helps them escape. They get to the stables where they take a horse from Jarek. Neel leaves Petra with the promise to meet again. Petra goes home to Okno. She gives her father his eyes back. She prepares for soldiers to come, taking up an invisible weapon to practice.
And that's what happened this week.

Personal Ads:
Stubborn. Reckless. Loves her family. Tough. Knows metals. Has a pet spider named Astrophil. Daughter to the creator of the clock. Hard worker. Determined. Sets her mind to things and gets through the task. Meets a Roma boy named Neel. Befriends easily. Cheeky.

I was really impressed with this book. As some background information, I've been looking for this for around four years. Give it take. I finally found it. And I was impressed.
I really liked Petra. She had spunk. Sure. She was younger than the characters I typically read, but she was as reckless as some others that are eighteen or nineteen. (That is simply annoying.) Petra cared for her father. She was reckless in a bad/good way. She was kind. Petra was one of those characters you love. Not matter what they did. She was funny in an odd way. You root for Petra. Hope she succeeds.
And Neel. I can't believe Neel. He has magical fingers. What thief wouldn't love that? Neel was really interesting. A family guy. He cared for his family. Really cared. Even if he wasn't blood related. He cared for Petra too. In his own way. (The present. Look at that scene. The horseshoe. Wow. Just wow. I smell a relationship.) He was interesting. I want to know about his past. How he got to be with the Lovari. Why he stays. Who he is.
The magic was amazing. I loved the idea of having metal abilities. Tomik's powers too. And whatever the prince has. (Is that just intuition or something? Can't tell.) I love magical worlds in general. Especially if they're done well. This combines magical elements with the actual world. There is a Bohemia. Or was. There was a Hapsburg Empire. It combines realistic elements with fantastical ones. I don't expect magical beasts. This isn't 'Leviathan'. (You'll know what I mean if you've read it. It's a historical fiction with steampunk and animals used as weapons. It's a good book. I recommend it.) This book isn't too high fantasy. It's not 'Lord of the Rings'. But it's not light fantasy like some urban fantasy these days. It's amazing how this book works.
I can say I liked most of this book. I really did.
The cliffhanger drove me crazy. I'm happy I don't haw to wait weeks to read the next one. Will they get caught? Will they escape? What happens next? What about Neel? I really liked Neel. What happens? Questions linger in my mind. I can't help it. This book leaves you wondering. You know the prince will come. The story foreshadows it. I can't wait for the next one.
The quick ending annoyed me. I wish there was more. I know it's juvenile fiction. I know. But I wish there was more. This series could be young adult. If it was longer. And has an older protagonist. (You can barely tell how old Petra is sometimes.) I wish the story was a bit slower. We get a bunch of scenes in the castle. And a lot of different jobs. But the ending is rushed. The action scene where they escape is skimmed through. I wanted more action. Maybe more fighting. Even if neither Neel not Petra could fight. It would have been interesting. Really interesting.

Clear skies
Profile Image for Terry.
3,789 reviews51 followers
October 18, 2019
I love the way magic is used in the story and how it unfolds. The story has an Old World feel to it that felt to me like a cross between Dickens and Pinocchio. Although Petra is the pivotal character, there are several relationships that have the dynamic of being quite realistic. The story arc is not completely predictable, and the author does an excellent job of weaving in "unintended consequences" of events that, as a 12-year-old, Petra wouldn't see or consider.

Read our reviewers notes about the depiction of violence in the full review.
Profile Image for Nameless.
191 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2021
Captivating. Astounding. Mesmerizing. A page turner.

Loved the author's imagination, the world building and of course her creative plus witty way of writing it all down in less than 300 pages. The story was not a drag, it was short and yet detailed. It hit every loose nail in my opinion.

It made me gasp, worry, cheer, snicker and laugh.

It is not a thrilling story, no secret plot twists pull the rug beneath your feet. I did not feel the "need" to find out what happened next and satisfy my curiosity. I "wanted" to find out how the story would proceed, I was intrigued.

So far, this might be the best trilogy I've read this year. (Fingers crossed, I have yet to read the other 2 parts but it seems promising)
Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,684 reviews124 followers
October 7, 2013
When I was young I hated to cook. I remember purposefully burning the lefse so I could get out of making it with my mom and two sisters. As a newlywed I'd be asked by my mom to bring a dish to some family holiday and it never tasted very good so eventually she asked me to bring the rolls or pickles. Alas, I wasn't trying to get out of that duty, but cooking for me is like flying. I'm only good at it in my dreams. When Petra gets a job at the castle with the plan of stealing back her father's stolen eyes from the prince, she doesn't get along with the cook and purposefully sabotages her recipe. How can I not love a character like that? She's good at using her brains to solve problems and she's courageous; yet flawed. My kind of story. My kind of gal.

Petra's father is a skilled craftsman who builds a clock for the prince that not only tells time, but has the potential to control the weather. The prince takes her father's eyes planning to finish the clock on his own by building the last part to it. (This is a fantasy. Eyes can be surgically removed and popped in and out of sockets like contact lenses.) Petra is spitting mad and with the help of her friend, Tomik, Neel, and Astrophil, she sets off for the castle in search of a job that will give her access to the prince's chambers. She begins in the kitchen before getting shipped off to a job nobody wants with Iris, the "acid lady" that makes fabric dyes for the prince. Iris has skin that oozes acid when she's upset making her a pariah even though she descends from royalty. Gears, metals, and clockworks make this steampunk novel quite different from the usual fantasy trope.

The plot is organized with the two characters in the beginning having critical parts toward the end of the story. The setting and description of guilds and clocks made it easy for me to picture Prague or even Brussels. The use of the prince as a Hapsburg firmly placed the setting for me in Europe and made me think of World War I starting as a result of a Hapsburg being assassinated, but the end notes explain that the setting presents the 16th century European renaissance. The use of horses as transportation and reference to the historical figure, Dee Smith, placed it at an earlier time and helped give me a clear picture of a place. Clues are given as the story progresses with most of my questions answered except the time Astrophil fell asleep. It progressed the plot so Petra got to go to the Roma camp but it didn't make sense why he passed out. He's a machine. I liked how the Danior story ties in with Jarek and the noble elephant protecting Petra and Neel. Neel's tale of fiddler is a true Roma folktale that reminded me of the Charlie Daniel Band's famous song, "The Devil Came Down to Georgia." I knew the song, but not the origins of the folktale.

An important question that the plot hinges on is why would Petra's father build a clock that controls the weather in the first place? Who would be crazy enough to think of this and why would he not think that the person, such as the prince, would use the weather to attack other countries or use it to his or her advantage? The author presents the father as a bit of a creative ditz who could only see the challenge of building such a machine rather than the consequences. The stronger argument is that Petra's father wanted to be paid for building the clock by getting a full scholarship for Petra to the Academy. Education is only available to the elite and he saw this as an opportunity for his daughter. Her father is presented as a scholar with his own library and this crucial explanation strengthened what could have been a weak plot point. As such, the author gives plausible motivations by the father even if they are not wise.

The author doesn't present the Roma people as stereotypical and when Neel explains the mathematical concept of zero I loved his insightful comment, "The best thing about wandering everywhere is that you can choose what you like of a place and take it with you, like almonds off a tree." As an international teacher, I can relate to the worldly wanderlust of the Roma people. They are good people who take in Petra and give good advice. Even the man who doesn't like Petra is painted in a complex and sympathetic way.

The characters are particularly well-drawn, pulling me along the storyline like a hooked fish. Tomik is the gadget-man and childhood friend of Petra. Neel is the thief who helps her break into the prince's "Cabinet of Wonders." He helps Petra so he can help his people too. Astrophil is the adult-like person who imparts or teaches background information that explains topics and history that Petra wouldn't know on her own for her age. Petra has flaws but is basically strong and good. She reflects on things such as if she is being selfish or unreasonable (which she was) or how a person can look and act sweet but has evil actions. Her internal struggles with not being sure about wanting to discover if she can work magic or not, to not trusting or trusting other people, to being mentored by her mechanical spider, Astrophil, along with nice pacing and action make for a terrific read.

Reading Level 4.9
Profile Image for Annie.
844 reviews14 followers
December 16, 2021
I loved Astrophil!! He’s the best part of this whole book! Although Petra comes in a close second.
Profile Image for Myla.
582 reviews16 followers
Shelved as 'lincolns-books'
January 21, 2018
Listened to on road trip...kids liked it.
Profile Image for Ана Хелс.
806 reviews78 followers
December 29, 2016
Уважаеми дами и господа, вие сте свидетели на невиждано чудо поднебесно – циганско стиймпънк фентъзи с чешки произход, английски супер шпиони и дупки в плътта на реалността, през които се пътува по-ефикасно от викането в нищото на Beam me up, Scotty. Мари Руткоски предизвиква постулатите в жанра на приключенските фантазии за подрастващи младежи, вкарвайки почти никога и от никого експлоатирани идеи в комбинация с обичайните особености на съзряването. И то го прави с искрено уважение към хорманолнания дисбаланс и емоциите на живот и смърт, които тресат тийнеджърите откъм шести клас до… е, понякога до края на живота, за тези, които приемат емоционалната интелигентност и израстването като много срамни неща, сравними само с четенето на книжни тела на публично място или непознаването на творчеството в детайли на поредната супер мега звезда на чалгата, рапа, попа или което там е актуалния метод за антивъзпитание на изморени детски души.

Кронос са фамилия изобретатели, надарени със специалната сила да влияят върху метала и гравитацията само с мисъл, което им позволява да създават изключителни шедьоври на изкуството и технологията в едно, като например доста по-магичния вариант на един небезизвестен часовник в Прага, само че тукашният може да влияе върху климата доста по-активно от което и да измислено или не глобално затопляне. И за съжаление е в ръцете на местния вариант на Рамзи Болтън, или иначе казано доста откачено малолетно копеле с онзи вид проблеми със семейството, баща си, братята си и други роднини и поданици, които най-лесно се решават по терминален начин. Но също така нашият принц Рудолфо, владетел на Бохемия и имащ всъщност своя исторически аналог, но в много по-бледа форма, е и истински меценат на тъмните изкуства, особено онези, които създават я инструменти за масово унищожение, я за създаване на чудовища чрез генетични мутации, и понякога разни други изтънчени методи за изтриване на съществуванието като цяло, на която и да е обречена жертва на гнева владически.

След почти библейска случка, в която очите на майстор Кронос биват извадени с магия, за да може красивият принц да си ги монтира по желание, щом му се прииска да се оттаде на своите мътни хобита, свързани с кръв, писъци и творческо използване на метални материали за постигане на първите две; невръстната му дъщеря Петра се отправя на пътешествие из пражките потайности на странното стиймпънк измерение заедно със своя метален, но одушевен паяк – енциклопедия Астрофил. Дъщеря на велика пророчица и метален магьосник, Петра е странна комбинация от необуздани и неконтролируеми сили, подсладени за разкош с много независим и леко див характер на особено кисела горска котка, и естествено пред нея няма много прегради за постигане на абсолютно невъзможното, а именно връщането на бащините ѝ очи. Нейни странни помощници стават целия ромски народ, които са си пак обичайните крадливи и весели негодяи, но малко по-чисти и доста по-умни от това, което си мислим, докато разсеяно гледаме каручката с кашоните до кофата за боклук, а също така по някое време се включват шпионина- маг Джон Дий, кралица Елизабет и най-добрия дуелист на вел��ката британска империя. Защото защо не, някои неща си намират мястото във всяко измерение.

Цялата история е изключително нелогично нагласено деус екс макина, но направено по толкова шарен и вдъхновяващ начин, че поредното случване на нещата по най-добрия възможен начин, при условие на доста реалистична опасност почти без жертви, изпълва читателя с онова топло чувство за вселенска справедливост, а не с гняв срещу нечие авторско безсилие. Всъщност това за липсата на жертви се компенсира накрая на поредицата, но в достатъчно умерена доза, която се усеща само в героично – разплакващата музика на Цимер, която няма как да не чуете някъде в ъгъла на съзнанието си след последната страница. Динамично темпо, приключения от всякакъв род и тип, включи��елно морски, разследващи, мистични, дворцови и хорър, и много силни малки герои, които дори да дразнят понякога с неизбежната си липса на зрялост, все пак вдъхват уважение с неспособността си да се откажат от поетия път, независимо от жертвите, които им се изискват като обичайния кървав дан. Оригинално, проактивно и леко четивно – идеалното книжле-поредица за подрастващи приключенци и търсещи умно забавление детски главици.
Profile Image for Katie Ruth .
596 reviews114 followers
March 24, 2014
The Prince has stolen Petra’s father’s eyes! Peter Kronos returns home blind, after a trip to Prague to help the prince build an amazing clock at Salamander Castle. Petra’s father can move metal with his mind, but he is not able to prevent the Prince from betraying him. When Petra realizes that her father can do nothing to win back his eyes, she takes matters into her own hands and sets out to Prague, secretly, with her tin spider, Astrophil. In the city, Petra meets gypsies, who just might be able to help her with her task, and she takes employment as a servant in the castle, in hopes of stealing her father’s eyes back. As the book progresses, her adventures only increase, and the more she learns about the possibilities of what the clock her father began building can do, the more she is aware she must stop the Prince from completing it.

Petra’s love for her father and her sense of justice represent the motivating force behind her stealing away to Prague, without telling her family, in order to steal back her father’s eyes. When love for family drives us to do something, it sometimes helps us to believe that anything is possible. Though others tell Petra that what she is attempting to accomplish is impossible, she perseveres. She also reflects a heart that is compassionate and wants to see wrong made right.

As I listened to the story via audiobook, I couldn’t help but think of a handful of response activities for the book. There are multiple ways to respond to this book through the arts. Young readers could create short skits of favorite scenes in the book by acting them out themselves, or by making a puppet show. The story has many humorous moments, so dramatic skits would probably get reading groups or classes laughing as well! I have watched middle school students have the time of their lives with these kinds of skits, and it’s fun! Petra has Astrophil as a sidekick, but what metal insect or animal might readers pick, if they had a choice? Artwork featuring these wished for sidekicks could be a great addition to any wall, and readers could then pick out three or four adjectives to describe the characteristics of these “helpers.”

The audiobook version of this story is fabulous! If you listen to audiobooks in the car or elsewhere, I would highly recommend checking this out from the library. I enjoyed a fantastic drive from Northern California up to Portland listening to the first of the Kronos Chronicles. Rutkoski includes an assortment of interesting and quirky characters, and I always enjoyed Astrophil’s antics. The wonders of magic, friendship, and love for family are all explored within this fantasy. I loved this story and am looking forward to the second and third installments.

Review posted on blog here
Displaying 1 - 30 of 577 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.