The Counterclockwise Heart Published by Algonquin Books on February 1, 2022
Source: Review copy
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Action & Adventure / General, Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic, Juvenile Fiction / Social Themes / Friendship
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Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .
Time is running out in the empire of Rheinvelt.
The sudden appearance of a strange and frightening statue foretells darkness. The Hierophants—magic users of the highest order—have fled the land. And the shadowy beasts of the nearby Hinterlands are gathering near the borders, preparing for an attack.
Young Prince Alphonsus is sent by his mother, the Empress Sabine, to reassure the people while she works to quell the threat of war. But Alphonsus has other problems on his mind, including a great secret: He has a clock in his chest where his heart should be—and it’s begun to run backwards, counting down to his unknown fate.
Searching for answers about the clock, Alphonsus meets Esme, a Hierophant girl who has returned to the empire in search of a sorceress known as the Nachtfrau. When riddles from their shared past threaten the future of the empire, Alphonsus and Esme must learn to trust each other and work together to save it—or see the destruction of everything they both love.
What I loved:
The story revolves around Germanic folk tales, which gives you a clue to the dark undertone of the story. The author’s magical system is unique because balance is the key to ensuring magic is not the cure-all for every problem encountered in the story. Magic at times made things more complicated instead of more straightforward, which adds to the tension of the story. The steampunk elements, Alphonse’s character, and the statue having clockwork hearts made the story stand out.
The Counterclockwise heart was unique and enjoyed most by those familiar with German folklore. The darkness at times can make it difficult for some readers but never goes too far for the age group it is intended for. A tale of magic lies and sacrifice makes it stand out read for the middle-grade genre.