I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of The Clockwork Crow from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.
I bought my own copy of The Velvet Fox straight after finishing it!
Opinions and views are all my own.
The Clockwork Crow and The Velvet Fox by Catherine Fisher, cover art
I requested The Clockwork Crow based solely on that gorgeous cover and title – I’m a sucker for a pretty book, but knew from the look of it that it was likely my sort of thing despite not knowing anything else about it!
And I still didn’t really know what it was about when I started it. Which is unusual for me. But it has such an atmospheric and mysterious opening that I was immediately drawn in and gripped.
Alongside a feel of classic children’s fiction, there’s a wonderful sense of other-worldly magic afoot, and the dark, cold, winter timing of book one and the changeable beginnings of autumn in book two both suit it perfectly.
Seren is travelling from the orphanage she’s lives at for years to a new home with her godfather in Wales. She has high hopes for a warm welcome and an adoptive family she’ll feel part of.
However, when she gets there, it’s eerily quiet, shut up almost, and only a skeletal staff remain to maintain the place and take care of her – the Lord and Lady are in London it transpires, and as for their son Tomos…why will no one speak of him? And where is he?
Having found herself in charge of a strange package at the station, upon arrival she opens assembles a rather shabby clockwork crow, but as with so much else – it’s not as it seems and it soon becomes apparent that it’s not just a mechanical bird, but an enchanted, and rather crotchet one. But its also the only ally Seren has as she sets out to discover what’s going on…
Well, I finished the first book and began the sevond immediately! In The Velvet Fox, we see Seren once more confronting the Fair Family, who have found their way into Plas y Fran and seem to have everyone but her under their spell. Can Seren and Crow outwit them a sevond time?
Seren was immediately likeable and the Crow was just brilliant – think Cogheart’s Malkin, or Rumblestar’s Bartholomew – arrogant, grumpy, sharp and prone to exaggeration, but with a heart of gold really! He makes the perfect companion for Seren’s quest, adding plenty of humour and a dash of blunt realism (which is quite something for an enchanted, talking, clockwork bird!). There’s also a fantastic ‘supporting cast’ – all of whom feel well fleshed out and likeable.
I loved so much about these books – the setting, the historical feel and especially the way they used folklore and tradition.
There seem to be many books at the moment which twist, draw on or spin off fairytales; this is no bad thing in my book, I love it!
But, while this book does do that – there are flavours, echoes and whispers of many familiar fairytales in here, especially in The Velvet Fox – it was also refreshing to see these books drawing on more of the folkloric side of things – the tales of faery folk, ill omens, superstitions and charms etc.
I really liked seeing the faeries depicted as sinister tricksters in keeping with old tales and beliefs and it gave the books a really dark edge without making them scary or off-putting for younger readers.
Indeed, the faery folk made for an terrible and impressive foe, and The Velvet Fox especially has both a truly detestable villain in the firm of Mrs Honeybourne, who is from the Delores Umbridge school of sweet smiling baddies and the brilliantly sly Fox himself.
Overall, short but perfectly formed, this is a magical and atmospheric pair of books, with elements of classic children’s stories, traditional oral tale telling and a dose of humour too. Wonderful – and a perfect December read!