Catherine Fisher – Firefly Press
With ‘The Midnight Swan’ the much-awaited third instalment in the Clockwork Crow trilogy due to be released on 1st October, what could be a better time to revisit the first two books in the series – or read them in preparation for this eagerly-anticipated new release. I did the latter and I couldn’t believe these these fantastic stories were undiscovered to me for so long. They are relatively short and so make for an easy, quick read but yet every chapter is full to the brim with fantasy, adventure and magic. If you’ve not read them yet, there is something very satisfying about being able to enjoy a trilogy in a short space of time, without having to wait too long for the next book – you will be left counting down the days until October 1st when ‘The Midnight Swan’ is released!
‘Claw and beak and wing and eye
Wind me up and let me fly.’
Travelling to a new home in the Welsh countryside to live with distant relatives, orphan Seren Rhys is shivering in a Victorian station waiting room. A strange and frightened man appears and asks her to take care of a mysterious newspaper parcel but then disappears into thin air. The train arrives and Seren has no choice but to take it with her, but what is in the parcel?
Seren arrives at the Plas-y-Fran* to find that apart from a house-keeper and a couple of grounds staff, the place is deserted. Her god-parents Captain Jones and Lady Mair have travelled to London and nobody will tell her of their son Master Tomos’ whereabouts. There is a strange feeling about the house and it’s as if everyone in it is afraid.
Strange bells tinkle in the night down dusty corridors and it seems that Plas-y-Fran is under the spell of The Tylworth Teg (Middle Welsh for Fair Family) Could these malevolent faery folk have something to do with Master Tomos’ disappearance? Confused and alone, Seren decides to tentatively unwrap the parcel and discovers what look like parts of a bird, along with a clockwork mechanism. Being the inquisitive and resourceful girl she is, Seren carefully assembles the crow and once the clockwork is wound, it is the start of a marvellously tempestuous relationship between her and the wonderfully cantankerous and argumentative crow.
The pair must work together to solve the mystery of a child who has been missing for a year and a day and it’s a race against time before the owner of the parcel finds them. With a dusty diary, enchanted snow globes, vanishing rooms and a frozen lake, what more adventure could one want?
The Clockwork Crow is absolutely unputdownable! Reminiscent of ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ I was totally immersed in the Christmassy, frozen-mansion setting. Catherine Fisher’s clever rhyming couplets at the opening of each chapter make it utterly spell-binding. This is the perfect read for Lower Key Stage 2 pupils to get wrapped-up in, during the run-up to Christmas.
*Plas -mansion or hall in Welsh and Fran – crow.
‘Empty horses ride all night
Now the broken feather writes.’
It’s Autumn at Plas-y-Fran and in a swirl of copper leaves a mysterious red carriage pulled by chestnut horses is swept into the grand estate. It marks the arrival of a new governess, Mrs Honeybourne, that Captain Jones apparently engaged the services of on a recent trip to London. But we soon see a sinister side to the jolly woman and it seems she will stop at nothing to isolate Seren and destroy the wonderful new life she is enjoying. The ghastly governess quickly develops a horrifying hold over Master Tomos and lures him away with a bewitching toy carousel. Its dangerous charmed figurines, a dancer, a drummer, a juggler and a fox begin to roam the house at night. Could this be the work of the terrible Tylworth Teg once again?
Seren calls on the clockwork crow to help her and their unlikely friendship is re-kindled. But will they be able to help Tomos escape the magical carousel creatures led by the Velvet Fox?
With suspense, emotion and just the right amount of humour, ‘The Velvet Fox’ is another page-turner. Our fantastic, bold, and courageous Seren is utterly marvellous once again and I thoroughly enjoyed the character development of the familiar characters in this instalment, particularly Denzil the groundsman who knows more about the faery folk than we first observe. Like Seren, I think I was a little bit in love with Gwyn the stable boy!
Magical rooms, enchanted objects and a household plunged into a deep sleep, ‘The Velvet Fox’ is delicious mix of fairytales, folklore and fantasy in a rich autumnal setting. It is equally as gripping as ‘The Cockwork Crow’ and once again I was left wanting more.
Due to be released on the 1st October – look forward to reading my review a little closer to publication date!