Middle Grade on Monday: The Clockwork Queen

Chess prodigy Sophie Peshka inherited her love of the game from her grandmaster father. But now that he has been imprisoned in the dungeons of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg by powerful Empress Catherine the Great, Sophie must use all her strategic skill and cunning to help him escape.

Part of Sophie’s plan involves an incredible chess-playing automaton called the Clockwork Queen, but will the Queen be able to outwit the Empress in a game where the stakes are a matter of life and death?

I adored Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart series, so when I saw this book on Netgalley I knew I had to grab it. And I am very pleased to say I received it.

The Clockwork Queen is a short book for the younger side of middle grade, though I still had a good time with it. The story has taken its’ inspiration from The Mechanical Turk, which was a chess playing machine constructed in the 18th century. I do have a massive weak for stories about automatons, so obviously I adored this.

We follow Sophie, daughter of the best player in Russia. And although this is written for a young audience, her life isn’t easy. When her father gets imprisoned for failing to teach the prince how to play chess, Sophie has to go an rescue him. For this she needs her amazing chess skills, her cunning and wit, and of course the Clockwork Queen.

The book itself is about 120 pages and only took me, a fairly slow reader, an hour to get through. But it still felt like a complete story, with a good pacing, an interesting plot and well-written characters. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.

And that’s all I really have to say on this lovely read, which will be enjoyed by not just its target audience. Would most certainly recommend.

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