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The Nine Pound Hammer

(The Clockwork Dark #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  867 ratings  ·  139 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 Yearling (first published August 25th 2009)
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3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  867 ratings  ·  139 reviews


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Jim
Quite a unique world that was very intriguing at first. It's steampunk peopled by heroes & legends of folklore set in the late 1800s in the US. For instance, John Henry beat the steam drill, but it was just a machine of the Gog & he's still out there. (Besides, that's not what really happened, just the story the public knows.) John Henry was one of the Ramblers, heroes of the wild that fight evil. His son was possibly the best character in this book, although not the main one. We get to ...more
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
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Chris
Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
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Angie
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile-fic
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
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Cheryl
Sep 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s, fantasy
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
Feb 09, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike Bauldree
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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.
Jennifer
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Robert Kent
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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Amanda
Never judge a book by its cover, or you will never read this one! (Or any of the others in this series?) They seriously are begging for new cover art; these are so ugly! Moving on, these are more American folklore/fable really than fantasy, but as they contain fantastical elements I stuck them on my fantasy shelf.

Okay, quick detour for a personal pet peeve; skip this paragraph if you want as you have been warned. Why do juvenile authors feel compelled to put swear words in their books?! Why? Don
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Robyn McIntyre
This was one of those books you fly through; the words go down like spring water.

One of the things I liked about it is how there isn't any explanation for why some things are as they are, they just are. It's that mindset of a child, where you just accept things. It's not a question of suspension of disbelief, either. There's a man who wears a hat that allows him to become a cloud of dandelion seeds. There's a band of pirates on a riverboat who are good to kids and a blind man who is an expert ma
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michelle
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I might never have even heard of this novel had it not been for the fact that it is on this year's Middle Grade Battle of the Books list. I struggled with this book in the beginning, often feeling incredibly confused. As pieces of the story started to come together it all got more interesting, but it assumed that the reader had knowledge of John Henry and American Mythology.

The story is told from the POV of 12 year old Ray who has lost both of his parents and is compelled to follow a special lod
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Paul H
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Ray starts off having a vivid dream before he wakes up on the train. Then he walks away to a different part of the train in order to be alone. After that the lodestone that his father gave him starts moving for some reason. He's interrupted once again by Mister Grevol. Shortly afterward Ray jumps from the train and joins in with a couple of performers, but the performers turn out to be something else.

My favorite character would have to be Ray. The reason why my favorite character is Ray is mainl
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Fraser Sherman
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
A Y/A fantasy I've been meaning to get to for a while. A teenage boy finds himself caught up in a war between the oppressive, lawful-evil Gog and the Ramblers, who preserve the American frontier spirit. The mythos seems to mix Norse mythology (a Fenris-like wolf and a replay of Balder's death) with American folklore such as John Henry, the steel-driving man, something I hope the next two volumes explain. Overall, a winner.
Alexis
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good book and I would definitely recommend. Its also a series which I didn't know so now I have to find the other books.

SPOILER
I didn't like that some of the characters died at the end of the book.
Andersreads
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
I reread this book so that I could finish the trilogy, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. A well-plotted, action/adventure story set in the late 1800's that includes Sirens, a blind sharpshooter, the ancestor of John Henry, and so much more that I had to barrel on to the finish.
MB Shakespeare
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
An American mythological Harry Potter - GREAT STORY! Fave quote: "Having scars just means you faced something terrible and difficult, but you survived. They show that you are brave."
May
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Like it better than expecting.
Tim Chen
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
AMAZING BOOK! Totally satisfied me! I am a huge fan of the steampunk genre. But it has the feeling that Johnny Apple seed is watching you. Great Story. 10/10 would read again!
Amy
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Just didn't like it. If Bemis wanted to mirror the 'Ramblers' in his writing style, he was very successful. The book was about 100 pages too long.
Liza Curtis
Jul 11, 2019 marked it as to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ashley Moody
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story is full of adventure, curious and mystery. The ending left the story wide open for sequels. Young readers will not be disappointed.
Nellj
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
I’m gonna keep this review short and sweet: basically, this book is boring, and I didn’t enjoy reading it. I didn’t finish it, either. It’s just your average fantasy American novel. And this book is supposed to be good! The librarian at my school said it was great, my friends who read it said it was great... so I guess it’s just my problem.

If you want a description, just read the one Goodreads provides. I honestly don’t remember anything I read, so just read that.

Anyway, /I/ wouldn’t recommend
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Alison
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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Elizabeth K.
Oct 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010-new-reads
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
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Books Ahoy
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jackie
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: j-fantasy, listened
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
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
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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
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Other books in the series

The Clockwork Dark (3 books)
  • The Wolf Tree (The Clockwork Dark, #2)
  • The White City (The Clockwork Dark, #3)