The Clockwork Crow
Set in Victorian Britain, Seren Rhys is an orphan being sent to live with her Godfather in a remote house in Wales. It is late and cold and while waiting for her train she seeks refuge in the station waiting room. There a visible frightened stranger asks her to keep safe a parcel wrapped up in newspaper. When her train finally arrives, the stranger who gave her the parcel has disappeared so she makes a last minute decision to take it with her. Once she arrives in Wales, she finds her Godfather’s house is empty apart from her and a skeleton staff of servants. The family is in London and there is a gloomy secret hanging over the house concerning the whereabouts of Tomos, her Godfather’s son.
Left to her own devices, Seren unwraps the mysterious parcel and discovers a pile of clockwork pieces and assembles them to build a clockwork crow which surprises her by coming to life. Together with this unreliable and truculent ally, Seren sets out to unravel the mystery of what has happened at Plas-y-Fran and where Tomos has disappeared to.
This is a Gothic fairytale mixed with a detective story. It is a good Christmas book, with all the action taking place in the lead up to Christmas day and many frosty and snowy scenes. The Year 4 book club that read it really enjoyed it; there were reports of finding it hard to stop reading and they thought it was just scary enough. The Welsh words were spotted (one member had enlisted her Welsh speaking grandparents to translate) and we looked at maps of the UK to find Wales (and Scotland, England and Northern Ireland while we were looking). Seren is star in Welsh so we checked whether our names had hidden meanings and thought of the names we should have. We talked about the clues through the book and how some of them led to dead ends and about what the world of The Fair Family might be like. Club members also spotted the hints of a sequel which they were excited by. We then made our own magic snow globes.