Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Legacy of the Clockwork Key

Legacy of the Clockwork Key

Kristin Bailey
For ages 13 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2013   ISBN: 978-1442440265

Six months ago Meg lived in a comfortable home with her loving parents. She went for walks with her mother, dressed as a young lady should, played the pianoforte, and was an accepted member of Society. After her home burned down and her parents were killed, Meg had nowhere to go. She was therefore very grateful when Lord Rathford, a friend of her family, offered her his help, though she was more than a little dismayed when she was told that he was offering her “a respectable position under the supervision” of the man’s housekeeper. In other words Meg was going to be a housemaid.

   Meg had no choice but to accept the offer, and now she works all day long cleaning a huge house where one reclusive man lives in all alone. She has not seen her employer and has a very lonely and hard existence. The only thing that she has of value from her former life is pocket watch that she found in the ashes of the fire. It had belonged to her father and was found near his body.

   Wishing she could get the clock to work again she makes a deal with the groom, Will. She repairs his torn shirts and for this service he will see if he could repair her watch. When Will examines the device he finds out that it is not a watch at all. It is actually a little music box that plays a tune that Meg and her grandfather created together. Clearly Meg’s grandfather, Henry, had made the device for her. The device also has a strange looking key like structure built into it, though Meg has no idea what the key is supposed to open.

   It isn’t long before she finds out. There is a clock in the house that has a gold medallion on its face. There is an image on the medallion of a three petaled flower. It is the same image that is on the casing of her grandfather’s device. Meg puts finds that the key on her device fits an indentation on the clock face. When the key is applied to the indentation a secret passageway opens up in the nearby fireplace. Meg goes down the passageway until she comes to a room that is full of drawings of strange machines. There is a letter on a desk that was written by her grandfather. In it he tells Lord Rathford that he believes the peer has “opened Pandora’s box” and that four people have died already because of Rathford’s actions. Henry believes someone is trying to kill him as well and plans on faking his death and going into hiding. Henry says that Rathford cannot “open the box again,” and that he should “let the dead remain so.” Meg can hardly believe what she is reading. It would seem that her grandfather is not dead after all. How could he not come to her aid when her parents died? How could he abandon her?

   Meg decides that she needs to get to the bottom of the mystery and she asks Will for his help. He has no interest in assisting her, and only does so when he has no choice. Meg finds out that a man mentioned in the letter, Simon Pricket, is dead and she decides to visit his grave. To her amazement the flower motif is on his headstone and she is able to retrieve the man’s diary from a secret compartment in the stone. The diary reveals that Meg’s family was somehow tied to an organization called the Secret Order of Modern Amusementists.

   Meg seeks out Simon Pricket’s widow who helps Meg to understand how her family is connected to the order. It would seem that Meg is at the center of a terrible conspiracy. Someone is going around killing anyone who is connected to Meg’s grandfather. A member of the order is willing to do anything to further his own interests, and it is up to Meg and her allies to stop him before it is too late.

   Readers are going to find this extraordinary tale quite captivating. Secrets are brought to light, some of which are quite shocking, and bizarre machines and colorful characters fill the narrative. The combination of mystery and adventure is touched with romance to give readers a story that they will remember long after they have finished reading the last page.