Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

The Clockwork Queen by Peter Bunzl

I love how Barrington Stoke historical fiction whisks readers away on wonderful journeys into the past. Without a wasted word, we find ourselves right at the centre of a new time and place. Peter Bunzl’s The Clockwork Queen is another of these masterpieces. Eighteenth century Russia, Catherine the Great, high-stakes chess and Trojan horse style intrigue combine to create a gripping story you won’t be able to put down.

Sophie Peshka is a chess prodigy. Taught by her father, she is undefeated in Moscow. When her father is summoned to teach chess to the queen’s son, everything goes wrong. Imprisoned in the Winter Palace in St Petersburg and cut off from his family, there is no way he can escape. Sophie is desperate to help him. The arrival of a strange clockwork chess-playing machine might be the answer she’s looking for. Can Sophie defeat this mechanical master and find her way into the palace to save her father?

Showmanship, trickery and the appeal of a well-played game of chess create a story of peril and possibility. Peter Bunzl has done it again with yet another fresh take on the technology of clockwork and cogs.

The Clockwork Queen machine reminded me of the chess-playing machine in Escape Room by Christopher Edge. It would be so interesting to look at descriptions of both machines, making comparisons and analysing how the authors have used them to create tension and mystery.

Thank you to Barrington Stoke for this accessible and incredibly enjoyable book! With dyslexia-friendly font, spacing and page tint as well as careful vocabulary choice, so many more children will be able to join Sophie on her quest to save her father.

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from bookshop.org Amazon.

Books by Kate Heap:

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Available to pre-order:

Nonfiction: Years 3/4

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