Published August 5th, 2008 by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
First in a series
Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it’s never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world’s finest astronomical clock. Petra’s life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home – blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn’t know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father’s eyes back. Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father’s clock has powers capable of destroying their world.
This startling debut novel, about the risks we take to protect those we love, brims with magic, political intrigue, and heroism.
I love, love books with strong, spunky heroines. And The Cabinet of Wonders has one of the spunkiest heroines out there. She’s not infallible, in fact, she’s entirely too fallible but there is a charm to her that draws you into her world and keeps you there right beside her as she has escapades that would make any respectable mama swoon. Petra’s father, as you will know from the summary, has been relieved of his..uh…eyes by the boy-prince of the country in which he lives. So Petra decides to get them back. It’s a foolhardy and almost impossible plan but Petra’s not one to let little things like impossibilities slow her down.
The book is a glorious read. The pace is fast at times and honeyed at others. The fictional and real world intersperse brilliantly and you can almost believe that such a world once existed somewhere in time. The characters, all of them, are so awesomely crafted, their detail, their characteristics, the subtleties within their personalities – they are a pleasure to read. There is no real romance right now and I am sort of glad because Petra is, to me, not at that age where she is distracted by the notion of boys being more than playmates (we start off with Petra being 12). But there’s a promise of it from two different boys who are going to hopefully turn into interesting men once the books continue.
The intrigue is well layered so that even at the end of the book, the promise of the future is delicious on your tongue and you can’t help but imagine what other hijinks Petra will get into. And oh, there are mechanical spiders, puppies and monkeys – steampunk-ish. You can’t lose with this book, guys. Marie Rutkoski’s debut novel joins the ranks of much loved spunky-heroines-shelves that contains other gems such as Julia Golding’s Cat Royal series, Stephanie Burgis’s Kat series and Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer.