Here’s a story of adventure, secrets, and betrayal, with delightful gear-punky twists.
The Counterclockwise Heart
by Brian Farrey
Read from a library copy.
At the edge of Kingdom of Rheinvelt sits the tiny town of Somber End, bordered by and at risk from both the fearsome forest that is the domain of the Nachtfrau and the mysterious and aggressive residents of the Hinterlands. On a single day in the past, a giant onyx statue of an armed maiden appeared in the town square of Somber End, while in the palace, the Empress Sabine (described as Black) discovered a tiny brown baby with a clock where his heart should have been and a riddle about “the counterclockwise heart” in his metal basket. She and her wife the Imperatrix Dagmar adopt tiny Alphonsus, who grows into a friendly boy beloved of all in the kingdom.
By the time Alphonsus is 10, he’s weighed down by sorrow and the need for secrecy about his clock. He’s torn between his desire to find out how he came by his clock and his mother’s command to keep the Stone Maiden company, as it has started moving, alarming everyone. Meanwhile, a pale-skinned, red-headed girl named Esme journeys from the frozen North where her people, the Hierophants, have been exiled for the last decade. Her mission is to induce the Nachtfrau to release the spells that have exiled the Hierophants. She’s a powerful magic user, but since the death of her father, has been raised without affection to value only her skills.
As much as neither Alphonsus nor Esme wants to trust anyone else, there are enough unknown magical forces as well as determined human enemies, that the two of them must join forces to solve their problems. (I really appreciated that even though Esme does learn to make friends for the first time, she’s still not a hugger by the end of the book, and that’s seen as something to respect.) And yet, in a land with so many mysteries, neither of them knows the truth of what’s happening…
This is an epic story filled with magic, mystery, a search for meaning and community, with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing as to what might happen next.