Beautifully written in prose that sparkles like the snow that provides its backdrop, this fantasy novel is practically perfect in every way. Young orphan Seren (it’s Welsh for star) is travelling alone through a winter’s night to her godfather and his family. They live in a big house in the heart of Wales and though she’s never met them before, a lifelong reader, she knows how this sort of story should go. Waiting for her next train on a freezing platform she meets a stranger. He’s flustered, clearly frightened of something, and leaves a bulky parcel in her care before disappearing. When she finally arrives at her destination, to find that her godfather, his wife and young son Tomos are absent, and that there's only a skeleton staff of servants to meet her, she assembles the contents of the parcel to stave off boredom and loneliness. It’s a clockwork crow – an awkward, clumsy-looking thing, yet magic: wound up it comes alive. Psammead-grumpy the crow becomes her ally and together they embark on a dangerous adventure to find out what has happened to Tomos, who disappeared mysteriously one frosty night a year ago.
The story is rich with the sense of old magic and fairytale, yet is a totally original and particular bit of storytelling. At a time when books often sprawl over 300 pages or more, it is wonderfully concise too, and even better for that. A delight, and thankfully there should be more adventures for Seren to come.
This review originally appeared in Books for Keeps.
A magical story of snow and stars by Catherine Fisher. The Clockwork Crow is a mysterious gothic Christmas tale set in a frost-bound Victorian country mansion. When orphaned Seren Rees is given a mysterious package by a strange and frightened man on her way to her new home, she reluctantly takes it with her. But what is in the parcel? Who are the Family who must not be spoken of, and can the Crow help Seren find Tom, before the owner of the parcel finds her? The Clockwork Crow is a gripping Christmas tale of families and belonging set in snowy Wales from a master storyteller.
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