The Clockwork Three: A Review

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. KirbyWhen Giuseppe finds the green violin, he doesn’t think it will help him escape. He doesn’t think anything can help him get away from his ruthless padrone and back to his home and his siblings in Italy–certainly not a violin, even if it is so much finer than the one he usually plays on street corners every day.

Frederick doesn’t need to escape anything, but he must become self-sufficient–of that he is certain. Being apprenticed to Master Branch is fine for now. But the sooner Frederick can complete his clockwork man, the sooner he can become a journeyman. The sooner that happens the sooner he can have his own shop–his past at the workhouse left far behind.

Hannah has already given up so much she scarcely knows what to want. Since her father’s stroke she has had to leave school and take work as a maid. Her family is just scraping by on her meager salary. When Hannah hears talk of a secret treasure, she starts to wonder–could it be the way back to her old life? If she can find it can she really solve all of her family’s problems?

Giuseppe, Frederick and Hannah don’t know each other. Under normal circumstances they might never have met. But soon the magic of the green violin and other strange happenings bring these three children into each others lives. Together they might solve all of their problems and make their dreams come true–if they can learn to trust each other and themselves along the way in The Clockwork Three (2010) by Matthew J. Kirby.

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The Clockwork Three is Kirby’s first novel.

This book is an interesting blend of realism and fantasy, adventure and steampunk. Kirby weaves the elements together seamlessly creating a city so real it is easy to forget that the backdrop of this story is fictional.

The story takes a sudden turn near the middle of the story as some of those fantasy and steampunk elements manifest. They work and they add to the story, but part of the semi-realistic charm of the story is lost in favor of more fantastical elements. Perhaps because this turn appears so late in the story some aspects of the plots resolution felt rushed or abrupt although still satisfying after a fashion.

Kirby’s writing is particularly excellent at the beginning of the story as he subtly brings the children together in chance encounters until all of their stories overlap. The writing is atmospheric and often quite charming.

Possible Pairings: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, Clockwork by Phillip Pullman, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick