The Clockwork Girl – Anna Mazzola

Published By: Orion
Pages: 400
Released On: 03/03/2022

Paris, 1750. In the midst of an icy winter, as birds fall frozen from the sky, chambermaid Madeleine Chastel arrives at the home of the city’s celebrated clockmaker and his clever, unworldly daughter.

Madeleine is hiding a dark past, and a dangerous purpose: to discover the truth of the clockmaker’s experiments and record his every move, in exchange for her own chance of freedom.

For as children quietly vanish from the Parisian streets, rumours are swirling that the clockmaker’s intricate mechanical creations, bejewelled birds and silver spiders, are more than they seem.

And soon Madeleine fears that she has stumbled upon an even greater conspiracy. One which might reach to the very heart of Versailles.

*****

Thanks to Orion for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

It must be so difficult to set a book in the 1700s. We know what life was like in the 1900s, and we have a vague understanding of the 1800s, but to write a convincing and readable story set in the 18th Century requires a lot of research and is commendable.

It is dark and menacing and creepy; reading this almost feels like someone creeping slowly over creaking floorboards in an abandoned Manor House. It has the same feeling of the hairs on the back of your neck standing on edge.

At times, I did have the feeling I’d read it before, which was weird. I don’t mean that in a bad way, in fact I think it adds to the creepiness of it all. The idea of things being recognisable and familiar but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

For many years, we as a race have been fascinated, yet terrified, with death, trying to find a balance between it and life – what wouldn’t we give for the chance to hold a loved one again, no matter how. Dr Reinhart takes our fears and doubts, wants and desires one step further, and tries to cheat death completely, but at what cost? There’s definitely more than a touch of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein about this book.

I really liked the power struggle between the female characters and the patriarchy. It’s not just the female maids or servants that struggle, but women at the highest levels too, and I liked that Anne didn’t shy away from this.

I found the first half good and enjoyable, but perhaps not as exciting as the second half, but once you get to the half way point, everything is ramped up, and it’s no longer just ‘good’ – it’s fast and creepy and treacherous and exciting and morbid and scary and exhilarating and powerful. At first, it may seem like a simple historical fictional, but there’s a touch of science fiction and fantasy, and a real question of morality woven within.

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