I received a review copy from the publisher as part of the blog tour in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Historical Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: child sexual assault and exploitation (off page, historic)
Paris, 1750. In the midst of winter, as birds fall frozen from the sky, a new maid arrives at the home of a celebrated clockmaker and his clever, unworldly daughter. But rumours are stirring that Reinhart’s uncanny mechanical creations – bejewelled birds, silver spiders – are more than mere automata. That they might defy the laws of nature, perhaps even at the expense of the living…
But Madeleine is hiding a dark past, and a dangerous purpose – to discover the truth of the clockmaker’s experiments and record his every move, in exchange for her own chance of freedom.
Meanwhile, in the streets, children are quietly disappearing – and Madeleine comes to fear that she has stumbled upon a greater conspiracy. One which might reach to the heart of Versailles…
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This is a dark little historical novel about the corruption of Louis XV’s court. I always feel like Louis XV’s reign and court are the most over looked of the later Louis, outshone by Louis XIV (the Sun King) and Louis XVI (husband of Marie Antoinette, toppled by the revolution.) THE CLOCKWORK GIRL is a novel that shows how much there is to explore in Louis XV’s reign and brings a lesser illuminated period to stark life.
The monarchy still reigns absolute, but the cracks are showing – and corruption is rife. The police answer to who pays them and put spies everywhere, children are going missing, and rural peasants are flooding into Paris as the economic situation worsens.
There’s so much tension and suspicion, which lends itself perfectly to the mystery slowly drawn out over the book. It’s definitely a book where the central mystery takes a while to come together and be posed as the mystery/motivation/thing the characters are actively trying to solve, so go in expecting to be drawn in by the characters rather than an early plot hook. Its structure and writing means that it works so well as a character study with lots of clues being set up well before the mystery comes in.
There are three POVs in this book – Madeleine, Veronique, and Jeanne (also known as Madame Pompadou.) It took a few chapters for me to work out Jeanne was Madame Pompadou, but I was very excited once I had as she’s such a fascinating historical figure. I loved seeing this older, more calculated side of her, rather than the younger version where the focus is often on her worming her way into the king’s bed and then power. This is a woman who held power for much longer than a usual mistress, and kept it once they stopped sharing a bed. And I loved seeing that side of her.
As regards to the ending, I sat with it for a while before deciding what I thought. It wasn’t what I’d been expecting going in (for which I largely blame Goodreads shelving!) but I liked how it played on that tension between suspicion and the rationality of the age of enlightenment.