The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher
Recommended by the librarian at my son’s school, I purchased this book for my 10-year-old and he enjoyed it so much I couldn’t help but read it too! The Clockwork Crow, set in the stark and cold Victorian era, begins with the arrival of a young orphan, Seren, to a lonely frosty mansion. There she begins to unravel a mystery that surrounds the house, family and its missing occupants as well as delve into a world of strange magic.
The writing is beautiful and reminded me of traditional stories from my childhood like The Secret Garden and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. It was pacey throughout with short chapters and continuous action making it a quick and engaging read. All set at the frosty edges of Christmas, we feel an urgency to resolve the puzzle and find a resolution before Christmas Day arrives. I could see why my son loved it so much and will encourage my middle one to read it too now. The main character Seren is very likeable. She is brave and strong and daring whilst being kind and caring too. The reader is easily pulled along with her curious nature peering into locked attics and down dark staircases with her. I did feel I would have liked more information about her past though but perhaps a fuller picture of her background and how her character developed into the girl in the book become clearer in the second book in this series. I shall have to read it to find out! The Clockwork Crow had a strong voice and although it was a less likeable character, I could picture him well and enjoyed his cranky remarks and frustration about being wound up.
Over all, this is a great middle grade novel and I would definitely recommend it as a Christmas gift for any child aged 7-13.