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Review: The Clockwork Magician

The Clockwork Magician audiobook cover, a steamship floats above victorian London as a man in a top hat hides is face. The Clockwork Magician by Eldritch Black.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 8 hrs 38 mins.

The Clockwork Magician by Eldritch Black is a Young Adult steampunk adventure following a madcap professor, his irascible assistant, and a bespectacled cat.

Audible Summary: "A street urchin with a mysterious gift. A nightmarish enemy hunting over the gaslit streets of London. Dark magic rising.

It’s a cold winter’s night when Jake Shillingsworth, serving boy at The Tattered Crow, finds himself running a task for his monstrous master Silas Grumble. Jake’s errands are never fun, but this one is worse than most. This one’s for a witch... When Jake’s best friend is snatched by a terrifying creature, he’s forced to seek help from Professor Thistlequick: an eccentric man known as the "clockwork magician".

Soon, Jake finds himself in strange, shadowed streets and soaring over clouds in a race to stop the gravest of threats. London Bridge is falling down and so will the entire city if Jake and his unlikely companions fail.

©2019 Eldritch Black (P)2019 Eldritch Black."

The Clockwork Magician is a wonderfully narrated Children's fantasy. Listed in Audible's YA category for 11-13 year-olds, I think that this audiobook is definitely suited to younger audiences. Some of the moralising is a little overt to truly be a story for all ages, but there are some scary moments and darker themes. The demons are especially creepy - particularly the scene in the Crow when the first demon comes for Jake. I think it would be suitable for mature listeners from 8 years if they are not easily disturbed by such things. (If they can cope with the Dementors and tension in the later Harry Potter books/films, then this book should be fine).

It took me a couple of chapters to really settle into the strange world Jake and the Professor inhabit, but once I did I found that Crow Alley and its ne'er-do-wells felt very familiar, as if they were drawing inspiration from the sights - and smells - of Ankh Morpork. I chuckled at the very Pratchetty image of Professor Thistlequick wandering through Crow Alley, asking for directions, only to be waved away with my favourite line of the whole book: "Good luck Squire, and watch yourself in there. Should things go amiss and I read about your murder in the newspaper, I'll wipe my posterior with a different page."

I did find some of the writing a little clunky, but I liked the humour and the world-building, and the narration remained lively and stopped it ever feeling like a chore.

The blurb makes comparisons to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who which I did not feel were particularly substantiated. I am a fan of both (in print, on screen, and in audio) but few mysteries and adventures ever live up to them. Whilst the description did draw me to this book when I first came upon it, I think that anyone who was actually expecting similarities to either franchise would be disappointed.

Although it is a standalone story which is not listed on Audible as being part of a series, much is left unresolved and there's something of a cliffhanger at the end which - presumably - sets the scene for the next book. I prefer to know from the beginning if an audiobook is going to be part of a continuing series, as otherwise I spend much of the book hoping for answers that are unlikely to come. So much about Jake's past and his abilities is left unattended that I feel I still know very little about him.

Though good fun and certainly able to hold my interest throughout, it may be slightly too simplistic to really captivate an adult audience. It's a colourful adventure that would certainly entertain young listeners and there's also enough humour and energy in this audiobook that I don't think it would annoy the rest of the family if it were being played during a long car journey. I really liked the cover art for this book, too, which I also think will appeal to everyone who enjoys the steampunk aesthetic.

The narrator Hannibal Hills kept me hooked throughout, even when I struggled to connect to the plot. His performance was very dramatic and engaging, and his voices for the characters were all great fun and very distinctive. There was a little music at the beginning and end, but it wasn't too intrusive. His voice occasionally reminds me a little of Neil Gaiman, especially when either is performing witchy voices in their narration, such as that of Mrs Wraith. (They don't sound at all alike for the most-part, as Gaiman has such a distinctive voice. I can't quite put my finger on the resemblance.)

I'd recommend this entertaining audio adventure to families and older children who are looking for a quirky, fantastical listen.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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