A Clock of Stars

Authored by Francesca Gibbons
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
Published by Harper Collins

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Adventure awaits two spirited sisters in this gripping fantasy where secrets simmer beneath the surface. When a moth leads Imogen and Marie to a hidden doorway, they walk straight into a kingdom in the middle of a crisis. A nation divided and attacked by an enemy in the night; the girls must adapt quickly or face dire consequences. Befriending the disenfranchised Prince, young Miro, might just help! But who was it that sent the moth to find the girls, and what role will the trio have to play in bringing peace to Yaroslav? A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth is an action-packed gem of a story, where villains lurk in positions of power and a drop of magic is always around the corner.

Gibbons’ narrative has an effortless energy to it that makes you fall in love with her story within a matter of pages. Playful, mysterious and peppered with a great deal of heart, careful use of alternating perspectives produces a rollercoaster of a reading experience. Within moments the reader goes from enjoying the antics of the children to waiting in suspense at the scheming taking place within the castle. Amidst all the entertainment, having these differing perspectives invites a lot of questions about the vulnerability of politics, making for a thoughtful read alongside the whirlwind adventure.

It is easy to be captivated by Gibbons’ eclectic mix of characters, all of which are exceptionally well constructed and could almost walk out of the page. There is something so distinctly familiar about Imogen and Marie. Perhaps it is the depiction of both a strained and loving relationship between the two siblings which feels very tangible and real. I loved the fact that a magical physical journey was partnered with a more profound inner journey for the two girls. Their experiences away from home help Imogen to understand that whilst she may wish for freedom away from her sister in the real world, they are, in fact, stronger together. There is yearning for independence, but also accepting the need for support to catch you when you fall—an excellent lesson for all children. The inclusion of morally ambiguous characters is also very welcome, and Gibbons often invites the reader to ponder upon the complexity of being good or bad. Good characters can be fallible, in the same sense that some murkier characters demonstrate glimmers of light. The elements of mystery behind the lives of some minor and key characters offer much for discussion and exploration in the classroom. Many personal histories are left untouched, gaps which could facilitate writing and drama within the world of the story and beyond what we have been told.

This would be a joyful text for any confident reader in Upper Key Stage Two and will make an excellent addition to a reading corner. Riddell’s enchanting line drawings are the cherry on top. Whilst this is a longer text, it is broken up with relatively short chapters, which may support children with less reading stamina to feel that they are sailing through the story. A few gorier events in the tale may be worth noting before recommending to some more sensitive children. But this is not to detract from Gibbons’ glorious world-building and the magical adventure waiting within the pages. This series will be one to watch, and I am certain that the following instalments will be just as riveting.