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The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher

Now this one is very good. The Clockwork Crow is the perfect way to call back to children’s books of the past.

In a story that is reminiscent of old fashioned mystery stories, sort of The Snow Spider by way of Jane Eyre and Rebecca – this story has everything. Mysterious strangers on train platforms, clockwork magical creatures suffering from magical curses, Welsh mythology, locked attic nursery rooms we’re forbidden from entering and suspicious servants in a spooky mansion.

The story centres on Seren who has had a tragic time, losing her parents then her guardian. We join her at a spooky deserted train station on her way to live with the godfather she’s never met, his wife and her son, at a remote house in Plas-Y-Fran. After a chance encounter with a weird stranger in the waiting room she is left with pieces of a clockwork bird with a jewelled eye – and a warning not to put it together.

The house she ends up at is deserted apart from some not-so-friendly staff, and the brother she was desperately hoping for seems to have vanished in mysterious circumstances – which appears connected to why she is not allowed in certain locked rooms in the house….

This has the right blend of spooky gothic chills and fairy tale (and Fairy Folk) elements with a feisty investigative main character, who is given enough agency to not feel like she is being swept through a story.

It’s impossible to believe how few pages this story is told in. The prose is economical, but poetic in places and Seren’s experiences are beautifully realised. This could easily become a future classic, and is a lovely standalone story (although I would totally read a series of stories of a young girl and her gothic, talking, cursed, clockwork crow solving mysteries and battling the supernatural across Wales…)