Published: March 3rd 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Adventure Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this magnificent and haunting gothic mystery. Thank you to Alex at Orion for the invitation to take part and ARC.
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…
A intoxicating story of obsession, illusion and the price of freedom.
“She knew then that the clockmaker might not be simply strange. He might well be something much worse.”
Paris, 1750. Madeleine Casteel arrives at the home of Doctor Maximillian Reinhart, a clockmaker who is the talk of the city thanks to his strange and unique creations. She has been tasked with spying on Reinhart’s every move in exchange for her own freedom. But Madeleine soon finds that she may have stumbled upon a secret much darker than she imagined. A secret that may go to the heart of Versailles and put her life in danger.
“She was tired of being told she was worth less than nothing by men who did nothing themselves.”
Macabre, haunting and suspenseful, this twisted gothic tale was everything I could have hoped for and more. A story cloaked in the syrupy blackness of a sinister mystery, this is a much darker tale than I expected. A story of a maid, a clockmaker, a King, a Courtesan and missing children. It has something for everyone: true crime mixed with historical fiction, a dash of mystery and a sprinkle of feminism. The addition of French language amongst the prose was a coupe de genie that perfected this magnificent and original tale.
My love for historical fiction is no secret and one of my favourite things about it is how much I learn while being entertained. I know relatively little about the time and place this story is set in but the author’s meticulous research and evocative imagery transported me back to the bleak streets of 18th Century Paris so vividly that I could see the buildings leaning into one another, and the beggars in the shadows, hear the horses as they pulled their carriages full of passengers and smell the filth. It was a time of corruption when humanity was forsaken in favour of wealth and power. Men would use their position to control women, a theme that runs throughout the story as we see our three female narrators at the mercy of men with power no matter their position in society and feel powerless to change it.
“Those things he makes, whatever it is he calls them – look at them closely. They’re impossible things, made with dark magic.”
I love when a talented author takes an outlandish idea and runs with it successfully, which is what Anna Mazzola has done with this book. Automata is a fascinating topic and through King Louis IV’s obsession with death, automata and reanimation and the fictitious Doctor Reinhart, the author explores how these astounding yet bizarre creations were both revered and feared, their ability to seemingly defy the laws of nature leading to whispers of witchcraft and black magic. Combined with the mention of how children are quietly vanishing from the streets of Paris that is slowly dripped into the story this creates a chilling air of suspicion, menace and fear that hovers over every page.
Richly drawn, exquisitely told and intricately woven, The Clockwork Girl kept me guessing until the final pages, giving up its twisted secrets slowly, my heart racing in breathless anticipation as I read. A spellbinding and unique story that I would highly recommend.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Anna is a writer of historical thrillers and Gothic fiction. Her novels explore the impact of crime and injustice.
Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. It won an Edgar Allan Poe Award in the US and was nominated for the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown in the UK.
Her second novel, The Story Keeper, is out now. It follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857. The Story Keeper was nominated for the Highland Book Prize.
Her third novel, The Clockwork Girl, set in Paris in 1750 and based partly on the story of the vanishing children of Paris, will be published by Orion in March 2022. She is currently working on her fourth novel, a ghost story set in Fascist Italy.
As well as novels, Anna writes short stories. She is an accomplished public speaker and regularly speaks at and chairs literary events.
Anna is also a human rights and criminal justice solicitor, working with victims of crime. She lives in Camberwell, South London, with her family, a snake, a lizard and a cat.
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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx