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The Cabinet of Wonders: The Kronos Chronicles: Book I

The Cabinet of Wonders: The Kronos Chronicles: Book I

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The Cabinet of Wonders: The Kronos Chronicles: Book I

4/5 (14 évaluations)
278 pages
4 heures
Aug 5, 2008


Marie Rutkoski's startling debut novel, the first book in the Kronos Chronicles, about the risks we take to protect those we love, brims with magic, political intrigue, and heroism.

Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it's never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world's finest astronomical clock. Petra's life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home – blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn't know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father's eyes back. Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father's clock has powers capable of destroying their world.

The Cabinet of Wonders is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Aug 5, 2008

À propos de l'auteur

MARIE RUTKOSKI is a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Shakespeare, children's literature and creative writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons. Marie can tie a good double figure-eight knot and is very fond of perfume, tea and excellent bread and butter.

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The Cabinet of Wonders - Marie Rutkoski



THE YELLOW HILLS rose and fell in sunny tops and valleys. The Bohemian countryside on this August morning looked almost like a golden ocean with huge, swelling waves.

A rickety cart was wending its way through a valley. Two men were perched atop the riding seat, watching the sturdy horse as it pulled them along. There was a bundle wrapped in cloth that took up most of the space in the open cart bed behind the men.

One of them, Jarek, held the reins. He coughed. I should be paid extra for this, he said. What a stench.

What do you mean? said Martin, Jarek’s companion. He turned around to look at the bundle.

Jarek saw him do it. No, not that. Those blasted brassica flowers. They stink fouler than a five-hundred-year-old outhouse. Oh, that, Martin replied. They smell sweet to me. The yellowness of the hills was caused by thousands of flowers, clustered and thick.

Jarek gagged. I wouldn’t like to be one of you hill people, working the flower fields. My clothes are going to smell rotten by the time we get back to Prague.

Too lazy to get offended, Martin leaned back in the cracked leather seat. Many folks enjoy the smell of brassica. It’s just one of those things you love or hate. Like eating asparagus.

Raised with the stink as you were, I’m sure you’re used to it.

And remember—Martin wagged a finger at him, pretending he had not heard Jarek’s last comment—Bohemia needs those flowers. Bet it’ll be a good harvest this year. Soon the farmers will be out in the fields to collect the seeds and press them into oil. You can grumble like a goat about the scent, but that brassica’s used for all sorts of things.

The horse took a turn in the dirt road and one of the cart wheels dipped into a large hole, jolting the cart.

The bundle in the back groaned.

Here now! Martin craned his neck to scowl at the dark shape. None of that! You’ll give us a bit of quiet. He made an impatient sound at the back of his throat. He took off his hat and fanned the sweat on his face. It’s very hot, he said, and sighed.

Yeah, Jarek drawled, staring ahead.

Good money, though, this trip.

Hmm. Jarek flapped the reins. We’re almost there, anyway. Should take us about half an hour.

What, have you been here before? I thought you never left Prague. How do you know this area?

I don’t. Jarek shifted in the seat. But the horse does.

Martin gave him an odd look. And she told you how long we’ve got left, did she?

Jarek laughed, possibly for the first time during the whole trip. Nah, course not! I was only joking.

But it seemed like a strange sort of joke.

Do you know what he did? Jarek said, jerking his chin toward the bundle, whose breathing had gotten louder and ragged.

Martin was still looking at Jarek suspiciously. No. Didn’t ask, and that’s the honest truth.

Jarek nodded. It’s best that way.

The order, Martin said, came from the prince himself.

This was news to Jarek. Learning this detail made him realize that he had been in a dark mood for the past several hours. Realizing this was like suddenly getting a cramp after sitting too long in one position. And, as a matter of fact, Jarek then thought, he did have a cramp in his lower back.

You didn’t tell me the orders came directly from the prince, he said.

You didn’t ask.

Which was true. Jarek did not ask any questions when Martin, who also took care of the prince’s horses, proposed they make a delivery to the village of Okno (with some of the profit going to Jarek, of course). And Jarek did not ask any questions when two castle menservants met him and Martin in the stables, carrying a man who seemed barely conscious, and whose face was wrapped in a bloody bandage.

Ah, there we are, Martin said, pointing his hand at a nest of buildings. The houses and shops began to distinguish themselves, and the dirt path became the main cobblestone road that ran straight through Okno.

The village looked prosperous. There were several stone houses. The wooden ones were in solid condition, often with pretty patterns of different-colored strips of wood decorating the window frames, many of which had real glass set into them. Shop signs advertised goods: leather tack for horses, books, carpentry, glassworks, and cloth. Women walked by in full, unstained skirts. Even a passing stray dog seemed rather fat for an independent creature. The road turned into a small square whose center was marked by a fountain that was well designed, its water bubbling over three tiers of stone.

Martin dug a parchment out of his jerkin pocket and consulted it. Turn left here.

It doesn’t make any sense, Jarek mused.

"I am the one with the map, and you should turn left."

"No, I mean this"—he tilted his head toward the back of the cart—doesn’t make any sense. What could he have done to deserve that kind of punishment, and get sent home instead of being clapped into the nearest jail cell?

Dunno. Martin waved his hand airily, chasing away a fly. Maybe he killed someone.

Then he would be in prison or executed or both.

Maybe he killed the prince’s favorite dog.

Then he would be in prison or executed or both.

Martin laughed.

All I’m saying is this, Jarek continued, if you want to get rid of a weed, you don’t just clip some of its stems and call it a day. The road they turned down had fewer houses. Ribbons of wind passed between the buildings and through the men’s sweaty hair. The weed’ll grow back. There’s always the chance for revenge.

"Him? Martin laughed again. Oh, I’m glad I picked you to drive. You’re a funny sort, you are. Weed or no, this fellow’s in no shape for action. Hold on now— Martin looked at the map again and glanced at a tall, skinny stone house set far apart from the others. As they drew closer, they saw that the ground floor was a shop, its windows crowded with bizarre metal objects, clocks, and tin toys bouncing like grasshoppers. Jarek could not read the words painted over the door, but a sign hanging from the corner of the house showed a many-pointed compass. Stop here, Martin said. This is it."

Jarek pulled on the reins. His hands settled in his lap, but they still gripped the leather straps. He may have sons. Angry ones.

Martin thumped Jarek on the shoulder. No fear, my friend, he said, and pointed toward the door, which had opened. In the doorway stood a girl, tall for her age, which was twelve. Underneath a long tangle of brown hair her face was wary. She was dressed in a nightgown, but stood defiantly, as if to say that she knew that wasn’t normal but didn’t care. She stared straight at them. Her eyes were narrowed—but perhaps, Jarek thought, this was because of the sun and not because she already hated them.

Martin leaned to whisper in Jarek’s ear. As I said, don’t worry. He’s only got her.

It seemed to Jarek that his backache had gotten worse.

The mare sighed. Then she spoke silently in his mind the way she did with no other human, for she knew none who had Jarek’s gift to understand her. If you were a horse, she told him, you would be used to bearing such unpleasant burdens.


The Sign of the Compass

EARLIER THAT MORNING, Petra Kronos had woken up to the tick tick tick of metal. It was not, as you might imagine, a clock. It did not have chiming bells, and it did not have two hands. Yet it did have eight legs and something like a face, a very tiny one punctuated by two eyes, specks of twinkling green. Astrophil, Petra’s tin spider, scampered around the nightstand next to her bed, calling, Wake up! Wake up, you sloth! Cave bat! Ground squirrel! His shiny body vibrated as he shouted.

Petra rubbed at the grit in the corner of her eye. Just because you must have stayed up last night reading a book on all the animals that hibernate doesn’t mean you have to show it off.

Astrophil folded his front two legs in a good impersonation of a human schoolteacher. In fact, sloths do not hibernate. They are simply very, very lazy.

Hmm. Though the morning sun was already making the room warm, Petra snuggled under the thin linen sheet. I bet they’re stupid, too.

Oh, yes.

The sort of animals who just can’t take a hint, Petra said. She yawned and closed her eyes.

Well … Astrophil relaxed his legs out of their stiff pose. "There is one rare sloth, the Spotted Angola Sloth, which is known to be quick-witted."

Petra lay still.

And generous of spirit.

No response came from the bed.

And easily moved by the persistent pleas of friends, Astrophil added.

Petra rolled over, her back to Astrophil.

The Spotted Angola Sloth is also prudent, especially when threatened by the prospect of waking up one morning to find sticky, metallic spiderwebs crisscrossing her entire face.

A dreadful fate, Petra declared. She flung back the sheet and slipped out of bed. The sound of clucking hens floated in through the one tall window. A rooster must have crowed sometime earlier that morning, but it had not broken Petra’s steady sleep. She pushed back the tousled hair that she stubbornly refused, against the repeated wishes of her grownup cousin Dita, to braid into something resembling neatness. Petra’s eyes were gray—or, to be more precise, they were silvery, like they each had been made with liquid metal anchored in a bright circle by a black center. They looked just like her father’s eyes. In general, she resembled him greatly. This usually pleased her.

She turned to a shelf that ran along the white wall between one corner of the room and a rectangular bulge, which was the chimney that began in the kitchen fireplace just below. The rough wooden shelf was littered with bottles, sheets of heavy paper, a few broken goose quills, and a small box the shape and glossy brown color of a horse chestnut. It was wooden and had a hinged lid. Petra took the box and plucked down a bottle.

Astrophil shot a sparkling thread across the room so that it hit the wall next to the shelf. With one swing, he launched himself several feet to perch on the shelf’s edge.

Petra uncorked the bottle and opened the chestnut-shaped box to reveal a miniature spoon, into which she poured thick green brassica oil. Astrophil sucked from the spoon with a delighted noise. After he had drained the oil, his eyes deepened in color and glowed.

Well, Petra said, corking the bottle. If you’re hungry, the others must be, too.

Astrophil quickly crept up her arm and dug his legs into her shoulder, piercing through her thin summer nightgown.


If she expected Astrophil to apologize, he didn’t.

By the way, he said, I was not reading a book last night.

Oh? Petra shut the bedroom door behind her. She jogged down the stairs with unnecessary force. The spider bounced up and down. They reached the second floor. A whirring, clanking sound began to come from downstairs. Then why do you suddenly know so much about zoology?

I was reading ephemera, he said, referring to the thin booklets stacked in her father’s library. You know I can only turn pages, not those heavy leather book bindings. If books are not already open, I cannot open them myself.

Petra raced across the landing and began to hop down the next flight of steps. Astrophil gripped her more tightly. The whirring sound was getting louder.

Astrophil said, If someone does not remember to leave out the beautiful, big books for a poor insomniac spider, what is a poor insomniac spider to do but consult the badly written ephemera?

Why were you reading about sloths and squirrels anyway?

Astrophil paused. I wanted to learn about creatures like me. But there was nothing in the ephemera about spiders.

Petra stopped. She began to walk down the steps at a normal pace. I’m sorry, Astro, she said. And she really was, for there was no book that could tell him about creatures like himself, even if she took down the zoological guide to arachnids her father had consulted when he made Astrophil. I’ll remember to leave a book out before I go to bed.

She reached the ground floor and opened the door to her father’s workshop, which was also the family store. It was here that one could buy metallic objects and machines crafted by Mikal Kronos.

It is just that I am a very fast reader, Astrophil said.

Yes, you are, Petra responded with pride.

The workshop looked like you would never find what you were looking for, and sounded like you would never be able to match up a noise with the thing that made it. But it was—or so her father always claimed—arranged in a very logical order. Then again, it was a logic that only he could understand. But in his absence Petra learned to find what she needed (usually), even if it took her twice or three times as long as it would have taken him.

Squeaks came from a very large cage under a table in the corner of the room. The tin pets were hungry and eager to be let out. What took you so long? some of them cried. Like Astrophil, all the creatures possessed tiny metal vocal cords. Metal naturally amplifies nearby sounds. Petra’s father had designed the animals so that their metal bodies magnified the volume of their voices. Astrophil was a quiet spider, as spiders usually are. He liked to share his opinions on many things, but he liked best to share them secretly with Petra, hidden in her hair and whispering in her ear so that no one else would understand why she giggled. But the tin pets could be loud if they wished. A screeching tin monkey was proving this very point.

Some of the pets ran in circles on the floor of the cage or climbed up the bars. When Petra opened the cage, five fist-sized scarab beetles, three puppies with tin scales instead of fur, a finch, a raven, two lizards that would have to be purchased together or not at all, several mice, and the big-eyed monkey burst across the room like a comet. When they saw her reach for a jug of brassica oil and a large saucer on the table, they rushed back to cluster around her ankles.

Such behavior! Astrophil sniffed, as if he had taken a leisurely stroll to have his breakfast.

The pets dipped their beaks in, lapped up, or sucked down the oil. Petra nudged the monkey aside to make room at the saucer’s edge for a beetle, which was ramming into the monkey’s bottom. When they had drunk their fill of breakfast, they moved about the room more calmly, except for the three puppies, who started to wrestle among themselves. They were the very youngest of the tin pets. They had been completed only six months ago, just before her father left for Prague. They were his latest experiment. Unlike the other pets, the puppies were designed to grow.

It was very boring for the animals to be locked up in a cage at night. They were filled with energy. Years ago, when her father had begun crafting the tin pets, he let them have the run of the house at all hours of the day and night. And what happened? A total disaster. Jars of pickled vegetables were smashed on the kitchen floor, vinegar spilling everywhere. A squirrel got into the linen cabinet and tore several sheets into rags for a nest. A bird cracked a precious mirror by tapping its beak repeatedly at its own reflection. If Dita and her family had lived with them at the time, you can be sure she would have quickly put an end to the pets’ freedom. But there was only seven-year-old Petra, who howled with laughter at the toys. Her father barely noticed anything. It wasn’t until one poor rabbit went missing, and they discovered her trapped and starving inside the gears of one of the models for farm machinery, that her father decided to keep the pets locked in a cage at night. They could play only in the shop, and only during the day when someone could keep an eye on them.

Astrophil was the exception to the rule. But then, he was the exception to almost every rule. He was well behaved from birth. He took his good manners as a point of pride. He learned Czech quickly, speaking in whole sentences when he was just days old. He was the only pet her father made who learned how to read. Astrophil actively sought out books on everything from poetry to how to make Turkish delight. Petra often teased him that he was filled with useless information. But while he learned many things Petra never would, he never managed to learn how to sleep. Most pets, when they were about two years old, would begin to doze for a few minutes at a time. A year later, they might be able to sleep through the night. But Astrophil, who was six years old, showed no sign of doing more than blinking once in a while.

Petra tidied the shop to make it presentable for business, dusting her father’s handiwork: horse bits and plows, intricately engraved silverware, a collection of music boxes, compasses, astrolabes, and clocks that began chiming ten o’clock. It was already late to open the shop. Dita’s husband, Josef, would have left hours ago to work in the brassica fields. Soon Petra would unlock the front door facing the street. She hoped that she might sell a few things. Above all, she hoped her friend Tomik would stop by.

Although it was incredible that she would have heard a shuffling of feet over the noise in the workshop, Petra did. She turned around to see David, Dita’s son. He was a few years younger than Petra. Stella! he called.

The tin raven flew across the room in a shiny blur and settled on the boy’s shoulder, gently poking her beak into his curly hair.

Upstart crow, Astrophil muttered.

I am a raven! Stella cawed back, insulted.

It was clear that the raven had no intention of being sold to an Okno villager or a traveling merchant charmed by her glossy feathers. The raven liked her life at the Sign of the Compass just fine, and had grown fond of David, who was stroking her head.

"Mother wanted me to see if you had finally woken up, the boy mimicked Dita’s exasperated voice. She wanted to know if you were taking care of your one duty in this house."

Well, I obviously am.

Well, you obviously can’t greet customers in your nightgown.

Petra started to say something rude, but David began singing loudly, looking everywhere around the shop except at her. Oh, she’s a lovely lass in her nightdress! But her hair’s a mess, I must confess!

The raven cawed.

Oh, she’s a—

David, be quiet!

—lovely lass—


He did, for he realized that she was no longer looking at him, but out the window. She had a worried expression on her face. What is it? he asked. He saw a cart driven by two men in tattered clothes.

I’m not sure. As she pushed the door open, Astrophil climbed into her hair and clenched his legs around a snarled lock of it, looking like a flower-shaped hairpin with eight petals. The animals eagerly rushed for the open door, but David darted across the room to stop them. He hustled them back into the

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14 évaluations / 13 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (5/5)
    This book is the first in a series involving a world of magic and a girl who is on a mission to recover the eyes of her father (which the prince stole), try to stop the clock her father built from becoming a weapon, and get home safely.
  • (4/5)
    Ok, now that was fun. Really, really fun.

    Ever since I realized that the author of The Winner’s Curse wrote this trilogy that I’ve been eyeing for weeks, my need to read it increased tenfold. And it didn’t disappoint!

    Cabinet has a little bit of everything – traveling, science, art, magic, political intrigue. Rutkoski has this way of merging all of these together in a fascinatingly rich plot, and centers it really well around a single character --- Petra. Her single-minded need to find her father’s eyes (Also, sidenote: the prince stole her father’s eyes. As in, he had them gouged out. And then he took them.) really anchors all of the different fragments of this world well. And what fragments!! The completion of a clock that could potentially control the weather, the invention of a new primary color, the ability to speak to and liven metal, paint that erases one’s existence, stories of Romany who could talk to elephants and horses and trained ghost fingers…the imagination that takes flight in this novel is really, absolutely breathtaking!

    And, yeah. The prince stole her father’s EYES. Petra in some ways is difficult to jive with, given that she is simply a conduit through which the story moves forward. Her qualities are very typical: brave, slightly rebellious, responsible, smart, with a dash of impatience. There’s nothing about her personality that stands out, that makes her different than dozens of other heroines in dozens of other novels everywhere. But, the secondary characters, like the prince (he took somebody’s eyes, for gods sake!) and John Dee, who introduces a fascinating element of international court intrigue into the mix, and of course Neel, with fascinating fables, make the story nice and lively.

    This is one of those books where it’s the world and the plot that make it a compelling, irresistible read. On to the next one!
  • (4/5)
    A YA fantasy in the unusual setting of Prague during what would be, in England, Elizabethan times. The first-time author weaves historical fact, AU history and sheer fantasy together into another inventive and original story – an astronomical clock that can change the weather, a prince who steals the clockmaker's eyes, a metal spider, a Countess whose skin leaks acid, a tribe of stranded Romany, a scheming Dr John Dee. It's let down somewhat by the writing style, which is blunt and choppy, almost as if it had been badly translated from another language, but I doubt this will trouble the book's target audience.
  • (4/5)
    Engaging and smart enough, but I find I don't have much to say about it, and I suspect I'll forget it fairly quickly. I didn't feel a connection to any of the characters (except maybe the Dye-maker Iris), and the boy who captured lightning in a bottle. I did like the idea of Worry Vials and of a sentient pet tin spider. I did like how magic is incorporated into an historical world. It was just a little too light for me, and I don't care enough to look for sequels.
  • (5/5)
    A wonderful book for young readers and an amazing debut novel!Just finished reading The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski. Fantastic book. The target audience is 9-12 year olds, but I'm (ahem..) nearly 35, and picked it up because it sounded interesting. I mean, Cabinet of Wonders? Doesn't that sound interesting? Others will probably pick up the book when they see the cover art, which is fantastic and really fits well with the story. Good job there if it gets people to pick up this fantastic debut novel.The book starts with a Mikal Kronos returning home after creating a huge, fantastic clock for the prince of Bohemia. After completion of the clock, the prince had Mikal's eyes removed so that the man would never create something so amazing again. Upon his return home, his daughter, Petra, is so angry that she decides to go to Prague, to the prince's castle, to retrieve the eyes of her father, even though her father has warned her not to get involved.The story follows Petra's adventures in Prague, which I won't give away here. She meets up with a Roma boy called Neel, who, with his family, helps her get a job in the castle. She meets some interesting characters who help her along her way in stealing back her father's eyes.There are a lot of little details in the book that just fill in your image of this fantastic city. Ms. Rutkoski creates a magical Prague, filled with wonders, especially seeing it from the point of view of a 12-year old child. While I say details, I don't mean exposition to the point of boredom. The details come in the form of little things that Petra notices, not in overwrought "add 50 words here" kind of writing. Everything that is mentioned adds to the image created of her Prague.The book has a nice ending. It makes the clock/stolen eyes story complete, but then gives you a few more threads that you know will be pulled in later books. It sets everything up nicely without forcing you to lose that nice complete ending. It did end a bit fast for my taste, and I was hoping for a little more interaction between the prince and Petra. It seemed that the book was leading towards an interesting character in the prince, being so pleasant on the one hand and sinister on the other. I really wanted to find out more of his character and how Petra would feel about him when she interacted with him. In fact there were a few parts in the book that seemed to be on fast forward, but for the target young audience, it will work just fine.The writing is very well done. It pulls you along effortlessly with Petra as she makes her journey to Prague and back. You wouldn't know the author hasn't been published before. There are moments when something happens and you're like, "but that doesn't make sense; what about..." But, in the next few sentences, she addresses the very thing you question. It's like she anticipates the questions that are going to arise in situations she presents and then answers them for you.There are a few situations where I think things came together just too conveniently, which I won't spoil here, and that bothered me as an adult, but I don't think this is anything that 9-12 year olds will notice. I've seen similar styles in other young adult books. I think, if the author had drawn out the elements, it would have made the book less appealing for a young reader and the book would have been quite long, indeed. In a time where young adult books seem to be doorstop big, this one is a nice, swift, roller-coaster read that I think many readers will love to pick up and barrel through with glee.I would definitely recommend purchasing this book, whether you are a young adult or an adult. I almost hate to say this, in case it turns off young male readers, but the book will really appeal to young female readers. It's not often you get to read a young adult book from the point of view of a young girl where it's not all about romance and appearance and popularity. This is a story of a girl who takes life by the horns and does what she needs to do to take care of her family, sometimes oblivious to the danger to herself or the consequences of her actions (in the true manner of children everywhere).This is Book 1 of the Kronos Chronicles, and I'm not sure how many there will be, but I'm looking forward to the next one. Call me a kid at heart. :)
  • (4/5)
    Intriguing, likeable characters in a fascinating world that blends medieval eastern Europe with unique magical abilities. Petra, a spunky girl with emerging magical powers that relate to working with metals and minerals, and her mechanical spider, Astrophil, head to Prague to attempt to recover her father's eyes which have been stolen by the prince. She would also like to be able to prevent the clock that her father had made the prince from being able to control the weather. Along the way she meets Neel, a gypsy boy, who becomes an important part of her plans. This was a fun story with many unique elements and plot twists. I enjoyed it tremendously and look forward to sequels.
  • (5/5)
    This book appeared in my hands at a perfect time, having rested quietly on a shelf in my study awaiting the moment. Our "real" world has developed serious problems with proper decision making of monumental proportions and is in need of the essential convictions of a 12 year old girl of Petra's description. Much about the book is magical. It's length is a perfect fit. The story moves along with energy and honesty in numerous short chapter segments. Perfect for bedtime. There's an ongoing sense of urgency without making it hard to put down (in order to sleep). History is inserted comfortably and the use of language to "teach" is nicely done throughout. The balance between the mythical, the magical and the possibly real works well. Overall, I was reminded of Frank Baum's "Magical Monarch of Mo" with which it compares easily. While marketed as a book for the younger age group, I vote firmly for its inclusion in all age categories (I am in my 80's.) Kudos to Marie Rutkoski for a grand experience.
  • (4/5)
    This wondrous blend of history and imagination introduces us to Petra, a young girl who goes on a quest to recover her father's eyes, which have been stolen by the prince. Action, adventure, subtlety, and a main character you won't be able to forget. Fabulous!
  • (4/5)
    Oooh! Steampunk with some humor for tweens, set in Bohemia, with complications, magic, and the usual appurtenances. Petra Kronos and her magical metal spider Astrophil are appalled when her father is returned from the capital minus his eyes-- the prince's 'thanks' for creating the most beautiful, magical clock ever. Eventually, Petra sets out to do something about it. (Compare to the tween fantasy The Blue Shoe: A Tale of Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes by Roderick Townley for a completely different treatment of some similar plot elements, and a male protagonist.) Well written, with sympathetic characters, a magical-steampunk storyline that is internally consistent, and a minimal and light touch on pubescent 'learning experiences'. The author's love for Bohemia shines through-- fans of Eva Ibbotson's Star of Kazan will find a similar worldsetting touch here. In a lot of ways, this is a classic hero's journey (with family rescue) fairy tale, with classic Eastern European elements. But who can resist Astrophil, or fail to like plucky (i.e., brave but not thinking things through, followed by dogged persistence) Petra? It remains to be seen whether sequels will be as good.
  • (3/5)
    When Petra's father comes home with his silver eyes gone, she is stunned and furious. Her father's eyes that had made such wondrous things, eyes that could see more than any other person could - to see how things fit together and be taken apart. And she decides to go take them back from the king's Cabinet of Wonders.

    This is a children's book reminiscent of a steam punk fairy tale. There are crafted spiders that speak and click metal legs. But there is the adventure and the quest and the magic and the girl who dares to save her father.

    It is a good book, but I am a little too old to enjoy this anymore, I think. When children go running off on quests without thinking things through, I am always just shaking my head and thinking of how things would go (even if there are such things as women who can secrete poison from their skin and create new primary colors).

    Things fell in place a little neatly for me to enjoy this book as well. It was sweat and tears and cunning that led to the climax, but luck and fortune and the right characters at the right place that just happened to want to help Petra.

    I suppose the later books might explain a couple of things, and this book really does have a good premise, but I am not enthralled or drawn into this book enough to want to read the sequel. Good, but not great.

    Three stars. Would recommend to a younger demographic that likes fantasy and magic.
  • (3/5)
    Mikal Kronos has a way with metal. When he creates a beautiful, potentially dangerous, clock for the prince, the prince repays him by stealing his eyes. Daughter Petra is appropriately horrified and promptly sets out for the castle in Prague to retrieve them. I loved the rich setting and all the magical details, but something about this story didn't click with me. Maybe it's because I knew it was the first in a series. Still, there are great characters here and lots to explore in this new magical world based on Renaissance Czechoslovakia.
  • (4/5)
    It took a little while to get into this book then I couldn't it it down. I can finally recommend this book from more than the interesting cover.
  • (5/5)
    I started this books as a read aloud to my students (5th grade teacher). I immediately was intrigued. The mix of historical fiction and the elements of magic and paranormal was fabulously interwoven together. I found myself buying the book and finishing it before I finished reading it to my kids. I cannot wait to read the next one. All the characters were relatable and over all the book was well-written.