GoodReads): Three ordinary children are brought together by extraordinary events. . . Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom. Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family -- if she can find it. And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker's apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers' guild -- if only he can create a working head. Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.
And here's what I thought: Let me begin by saying that Matthew Kirby has an extremely descriptive writing style. When I was reading this book, I always had a clear picture in my mind of the characters, or the places. The writing is also very smooth, and I enjoyed how he introduces the characters individually, and then starts to weave their stories together. For example, we meet Guiseppe first, learning about who he is, and what his situation is. Then, we move to Frederick, and then Hannah. Pretty soon, the story really picks up pace, and we learn how all three of them are all involved in the main story. I never felt a disconnect when I moved from character to character as the chapters changed, which sometimes can happen in a story. I felt sympathetic towards all three, and got caught up in their story (and worried about what was going to happen towards the end). What I also enjoyed was that all three of them are strong characters; Hannah isn't a minor character, or completely reliant on the other two boys. All three of them are quite used to being independent, and fending for themselves to some degree. I would have been completely annoyed and disappointed if somehow, Hannah had been anything less than what she was.
There are some really interesting elements to this story, as well, that give it a bit of mystery. Giuseppe's green violion, for example, seems to have a strong effect on anyone listening. Hannah's new employer definitely has more to her than meets the eye. Frederick's clockwork automaton also seems to have a smidge of magic. However, despite these details, it takes all three of the characters to work together to really make things happen. Overall, this was a good read. The wonderful writing alone made reading it a pleasure, and it was a well-written story, as well.
I will note, however,that this book didn't grab me as much as some others that I've read. It could be because this book is for a slightly younger audience that what I usually read (I'd put it at age 10-12, as opposed to some of the teen books that aim for the 16+ crowd). Sometimes, I wondered at how real some of the situtions were, particularly Giuseppe's dealings with Stephano (who seems like a nasty version of Fagin from Oliver Twist). However, I think a younger reader wouldn't be bothered by any of this, and would just sucked into the story.
Since I mentioned the writing, I should give an example, yes? How about: "The storm had left powdery clouds behind, and a shade of blue in the sky that showed all the other blues what they should look like." (p. 14) and "Sharing his memories felt like handing over a sharp knife. A knife that others might handle carelessly." (p. 61)
Received courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales Book it Forward ARC tour. This book is due to be published in October, 2010. Thus, any pages referenced to in this ARC (Advance Reading Copy) are subject to change in the final publishing.