The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher is an imaginative spin on the classic story of the Fair Folk and their abduction of children.
Seren Rhys is an orphan who has recently been invited to join the family of Captain Arthur Jones, his wife, Lady Mair, and their only son Tomos at their home in Plas-y Fran, Wales. While waiting for her train to arrive, she has an interaction with a mysterious man who leaves a parcel in her care. Within the parcel are the workings of some clockwork toy.
When Seren arrives at Plas-y Fran, she finds it dark, unwelcoming, and empty of any family members. When she seeks answers from the forbidding housekeeper Mrs. Villiers or the handyman Denzil, she is told to mind her own business. Frustrated, she constructs the clockwork toy in the parcel, and brings a Clockwork Crow to life.
After nosing around in forbidden areas, Seren eventually discovers that someone has disappeared, and the rest of the family has left the house because it holds too many memories. Determined to unlock the mystery, Seren and the Clockwork Crow undertakes the quest to find the missing person and bring joy back to Plas-y Fran before Seren’s rule-breaking ways send her straight back to the orphanage.
I have previously read other novels by Catherine Fisher, and I have always enjoyed her dark fairytale style. Even though The Clockwork Crow is perhaps more spare and slightly less developed than her heftier series, like The Oracle Prophecy series or her Relic Master series, I still really enjoyed the plot development and the twist on the Fair Folk. The ending was satisfying while leaving room for the sequel, in which I hope the Fair Folk come back in a big, big way!
Seren is a compelling protagonist written with a hefty dose of determination and stubbornness, and I really appreciated that she was never bratty per se, but simply a girl with a lot of opinions who didn’t realize when she may or may not have crossed a line. I would recommend this book for readers of The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd.
Review of an Advance Reading Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Walker Books
Violence/Gore: Many reports of a character going missing; report of family members’ deaths; a man is afraid, leaves a parcel and goes outside but never returns; a character feels bruised after barely catching her train; a character is uneasy at the sight of a darkened house; a character breaks the rules and enters a forbidden area; a character thinks someone might be locked in a room; characters frequently argue and verbally fight and can be mean to each other; a character hears approaching footsteps and fears being caught in a forbidden area; a girl gets stuck with a pin; a character reports getting cursed; report of someone being lost to a family; report of a child disappearing a year ago and never being found; a crow sits on a character’s shoulder and digs it claws into her skin; a character threatens another; in an extended scene, a character follows a magical sound in hopes of finding a lost character, and travels through a darkly enchanted area that smells of danger, and journeys down a well into an eerily magical forest; a character bounces into an invisible wall; a character uses a drop of blood to create a passage; a character struggles through deep snow and nearly succumbs to her tiredness; characters are chased by otherworldly creatures and one character nearly gives in to their wiles; report of a family grieving over the loss of their child; characters are trapped in an enchanted place; a character is found caged while other characters are attacked by magical persuasion; a character is snatched at and held by magical beings, and shatters an enchanted toy to break a spell; a character is still trapped in a cursed form.
Sex/Nudity: A girl takes a bath; a girl undresses to go to bed.
Mature Subject Matter:
Loss of a child; Grief; Death of a Family Member.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
A character is given a sedative.