This is a review of The Mystery Of The Clockwork Sparrow, by Katherine Woodfine, and a look at the work of its illustrator, Júlia Sardà.
The cover of this book is just lovely. I love the blue and yellow colour scheme, and the silhouette outlines. It’s simple yet elegant, and very evocative of the period in which the story is set. The inside covers are beautifully illustrated with little black and white cameos of Edwardian ladies in hats. These recur at the start of each chapter and really add a delightful touch to the story. As you can tell, I’m already a big fan of the book’s illustrations but when I looked further into the work of Júlia Sardà I was really mesmerised. She’s illustrated a wealth of famous children’s stories from Alice In Wonderland to Mary Poppins, and I love the vintage colour palette, bold shapes, and elongated lines.
Onto the story…
I was looking forward to reading this book as it instantly drew up comparisons to Mr Selfridge, with the added element of a murder mystery thrown in. This is the synopsis;
You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store!
Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villians to justice…
This was a really bright, fun read. The setting of Edwardian London felt well-researched, believable and beautifully described (and this is one of the biggest things I look for in reading novels with a historical setting). It took me a little while to get into the opening of the story but when the crime took place at around page 60, I really felt things picked up and the mystery got going.
I liked the wide cast of characters, from the shop girls to Edward Sinclair himself, the owner of Sinclair’s Department Store. Although the synopsis only mentions the female protagonists, I think it was actually the two young male characters, Joe and Billy, that I liked the most. They had interesting back stories and provided a perspective you don’t normally see in this sort of book (you usually see things only through the eyes of a young girl).
Overall, it was lovely to escape into the world of Sinclair’s and follow Sophie, Lil, Joe, and Billy as they solved the mystery. I feel like The Mystery Of The Clockwork Sparrow brought together the four main characters nicely and sets them up for lots of future adventures. I think in next book, which I believe is called The Mystery Of The Jewelled Moth, I’d like to see more of the department store in action, serving customers, taking on exciting new stock, etc… but I’m certainly looking forward to reading it!
P.S I was inspired by the book to try my hand at a little fan art. Above is my vision of the clockwork sparrow.