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The Cabinet of Wonders (The Kronos Chronicles Series #1)
     

The Cabinet of Wonders (The Kronos Chronicles Series #1)

4.4 56
by Marie Rutkoski
 

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Marie Rutkoski's startling debut novel, the first book in the Kronos Chronicles, about the risks we take to protect those we love, brims with magic, political intrigue, and heroism.

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

Overview

Marie Rutkoski's startling debut novel, the first book in the Kronos Chronicles, about the risks we take to protect those we love, brims with magic, political intrigue, and heroism.

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.

The Cabinet of Wonders is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Add this heady mix of history and enchantment to the season's list of astonishingly accomplished first novels: in Rutkowski's multilayered version of late-16th-century Bohemia, magicians coexist with peasants and courtiers, a tribe of gypsies use specially endowed "ghost" fingers, and the fate of Europe hangs on the schemes of an evil prince. As the novel opens, a metalworker with extraordinary gifts has returned from Prince Rodolfo's palace in Prague, having finished his commission to build a magical clock-but the prince has gouged out his eyes, so that he can never duplicate the clock or, worse, better it. Even more disturbingly, the prince wears the eyes himself. Vowing to recover her father's eyes, 12-year-old Petra sneaks off to Prague, with little more than the company of Astrophil, an erudite tin spider who can communicate with her. Proving herself a worthy relative of, say, Philip Pullman's quick-thinking, fearless heroines, Petra navigates her way past sorceress countesses, English spy magicians, dangerous gypsies and through bewitched palace halls until Rodolfo, wearing the ill-gotten eyes, catches sight of her. Infusions of folklore (and Rutkowski's embellishments of them) don't slow the fast plot but more deeply entrance readers. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Sue Poduska
Written as Book 1 of "The Kronos Chronicles" series, this is an unusual and fun book to read. Set in Bohemia in the 14th century, the story is a delightful mix of magic and ethnicity. Twelve-year-old Petra leaves her small village for Prague. She is trying to return her father's eyes, which were stolen by Prince Rodolfo. At times, she is aided by a metal spider, by magic, by a Romani boy and his sister, by a sorceress who oozes acid from her skin and by an English magician. Full of excitement, it is a fascinating story. However, I found the mixture of fact and fiction very confusing. The author is meticulous about geographic details in a very real Prague, but she makes up names for the statues on the Charles Bridge (Karlov most). I also feel the author depicts the Romani people (also known as gypsies) in a bad light. She gives the Romani characters some depth, but the reader's first encounter with them is a pickpocket who continues to be dishonest throughout the story. This tends to reinforce the stereotypes of these people. Reviewer: Sue Poduska
School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up

Set in 16th-century Bohemia, Petra's father, who was commissioned to build a clock for Prince Rodolfo, returns home blind. The prince gouged out his eyes so that the metalworker would never be able to create a more beautiful clock. Determined to retrieve her inventor father's eyes, the 12-year-old girl travels to Prague with Astrophil, a tin spider created by her father, to locate them. Marie Rutkoski's fantasy (Farrar Straus, 2008) is narrated by Lorelei King who gives distinct and appropriate voices to all the characters. However, while the text states that the people in Prague sound quite different, this is not reflected in the reading. Also, King sometimes replaces "want to" and "going to" with "wanna" and "gonna." Although Rutkowski takes some pains to introduce Roma (Gypsy) culture to readers, it is shocking that she perpetuates the negative stereotype of Gypsies as a culture of liars and thieves, an image Carla Stevens decried in a 1974 article, "The Image of Gypsies in Children's Literature" (Interracial Books for Children, Vol. 5), and the kind of negative stereotype that would not be acceptable about any other minority group today. Although the story is exciting and involving, this audiobook cannot be recommended for that reason.-Louise L. Sherman, formerly at Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ

Kirkus Reviews
A refreshingly different fantasy premise falls to pedestrian plotting. Twelve-year-old Petra admires her father's magical talent for mechanical invention, but when he is blinded after crafting a clock for the Prince of Bohemia, she is as outraged by his resigned acceptance as by his mutilation. She runs off to Prague to steal back her father's eyes, now bespelled for the Prince to wear. Assisted by the erudite tin spider Astrophil and the Gypsy boy Neel, Petra braves both the wonders and injustices of palace life to learn that the marvelous clock threatens the stability of all Europe. The fantastical alternative-Renaissance setting provides imaginative charm, and intrepid Petra is a resourceful, if self-centered, heroine. Alas, her quest plods along without suspense, relying on random encounters and convenient revelations. Despite occasional intriguing glimpses of magic in action, there is no sense of a coherent system. The tone veers irritatingly from fairy-tale adventure to unpleasant grimness to arch narrative asides, and erratic shifts in point of view add to the confusion. Disappointing. (Fantasy. 10-14)
From the Publisher

“...a sweet and charming fantasy, perfect for fans of ELLA ENCHANTED or THE PRINCESS ACADEMY.... Lorelei King is a talented narrator whose superb creation of whimsical characters is beautifully done.” —AudioFile, Winner of an Earphones Award

“In this utterly engrossing book, Marie Rutkoski combines sixteenth century European history with magic-rich fantasy to create a story that readers will find irresistible.” —Through The Looking Glass Children's Book Review

"Readers . . . who enjoy literary fantasy are likely to savor Marie Rutkoski's debut novel, which was inspired by the grisly legend associated with the famous astronomical clock in Prague's Old Town Square.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Like Phillip Pullman's young Lyra, [Petra] matures in worlds more complex than she had imagined.” —The Chicago Tribune

“Add this heady mix of history and enchantment to the season's list of astonishingly accomplished first novels. . . . [Petra] proves herself a worthy relative of, say Philip Pullman's quick-thinking, fearless heroines. . . Infusions of folklore don't slow down the fast plot but more deeply entrance readers.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Loved this book. Strong girl character. Fascinating alternate Bohemia world. Clever silhouette cover.” —BOUND, MSN Entertainment Book Blog

“For those who like their fantasy with a splash of history, or their history with a twist of magic, this book is ideal.” —School Library Journal

“Fresh and fortuitous.” —The Horn Book

“Rutkoski poses searching questions about perception and judgment, and plants plenty of seeds for future installments, but this first novel of adventure, loyalty and familial love (not to mention magic) wraps up quite satisfyingly.” —Shelf Awareness

“The Cabinet of Wonders is just that--a book to get lost in, to be amazed and astonished by, to explore with curiosity and delight.” —Books & Books, Miami, Florida

“Rutkoski's fantasy features quirky characters, imaginative world building, and a hint of trouble to come that will create demand for the next book in the planned Kronos Chronicles series.” —Booklist

“Though Rutkoski wraps up her magical tale beautifully, her lovable cast and intriguing scenarios are certain to bring readers back for a second round in The Kronos Chronicles.” —BookPage

“Rutkoski effectively uses the romance of the region and the mystique of gypsy legends to evoke an atmosphere of danger and adventure. Her well-crafted fantasy world is a mix of magic and technology . . . that, along with the thoroughly likeable characters, will quickly draw readers in and have them eagerly anticipating the next installment in the series.” —Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books

“It was like a mix of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.” —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374310264
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
08/05/2008
Series:
Kronos Chronicles Series , #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

The yellow hills rose and fell in sunny tops and valleys. The Bohemian countryside on this August morning looked almost like a golden ocean with huge, swelling waves.

A rickety cart was wending its way through a valley. Two men were perched atop the riding seat, watching the sturdy horse as it pulled them along. There was a bundle wrapped in cloth that took up most of the space in the open cart bed behind the men.

One of them, Jarek, held the reins. He coughed. “I should be paid extra for this,” he said. “What a stench.”

“What do you mean?” said Martin, Jarek’s companion. He turned around to look at the bundle.

Jarek saw him do it. “No, not that. Those blasted brassica flowers. They stink fouler than a five-hundred-year-old outhouse.”

“Oh, that,” Martin replied. “They smell sweet to me.”

The yellowness of the hills was caused by thousands of flowers, clustered and thick.

Jarek gagged. “I wouldn’t like to be one of you hill people, working the flower fields. My clothes are going to smell rotten by the time we get back to Prague.”

Too lazy to get offended, Martin leaned back in the cracked leather seat. “Many folks enjoy the smell of brassica. It’s just one of those things you love or hate. Like eating asparagus.”

“Raised with the stink as you were, I’m sure you’re used to it.”

“And remember”—Martin wagged a finger at him, pretending he had not heard Jarek’s last comment—“Bohemia needs those flowers. Bet it’ll be a good harvest this year. Soon the farmers will be out in the fields to collect the seeds and press them into oil. You can grumble like a goat about the scent, but that brassica’s used for all sorts of things.”

The horse took a turn in the dirt road and one of the cart wheels dipped into a large hole, jolting the cart.

The bundle in the back groaned.

“Here now!” Martin craned his neck to scowl at the dark shape. “None of that! You’ll give us a bit of quiet.” He made an impatient sound at the back of his throat. He took off his hat and fanned the sweat on his face. “It’s very hot,” he said, and sighed.

“Yeah,” Jarek drawled, staring ahead.

“Good money, though, this trip.”

“Hmm.” Jarek flapped the reins. “We’re almost there, anyway. Should take us about half an hour.”

“What, have you been here before? I thought you never left Prague. How do you know this area?”

“I don’t.” Jarek shifted in the seat. “But the horse does.”

Martin gave him an odd look. “And she told you how long we’ve got left, did she?”

Jarek laughed, possibly for the first time during the whole trip. “Nah, course not! I was only joking.”

But it seemed like a strange sort of joke.

“Do you know what he did?” Jarek said, jerking his chin toward the bundle, whose breathing had gotten louder and ragged.

Martin was still looking at Jarek suspiciously. “No. Didn’t ask, and that’s the honest truth.”

Jarek nodded. “It’s best that way.”

“The order,” Martin said, “came from the prince himself.”

This was news to Jarek. Learning this detail made him realize that he had been in a dark mood for the past several hours. Realizing this was like suddenly getting a cramp after sitting too long in one position. And, as a matter of fact, Jarek then thought, he did have a cramp in his lower back.

“You didn’t tell me the orders came directly from the prince,” he said.

“You didn’t ask.”

Which was true. Jarek did not ask any questions when Martin, who also took care of the prince’s horses, proposed they make a delivery to the village of Okno (with some of the profit going to Jarek, of course). And Jarek did not ask any questions when two castle menservants met him and Martin in the stables, carrying a man who seemed barely conscious, and whose face was wrapped in a bloody bandage.

“Ah, there we are,” Martin said, pointing his hand at a nest of buildings. The houses and shops began to distinguish themselves, and the dirt path became the main cobblestone road that ran straight through Okno.

The village looked prosperous. There were several stone houses. The wooden ones were in solid condition, often with pretty patterns of different-colored strips of wood decorating the window frames, many of which had real glass set into them. Shop signs advertised goods: leather tack for horses, books, carpentry, glassworks, and cloth. Women walked by in full, unstained skirts. Even a passing stray dog seemed rather fat for an independent creature. The road turned into a small square whose center was marked by a fountain that was well designed, its water bubbling over three tiers of stone.

Martin dug a parchment out of his jerkin pocket and consulted it. “Turn left here.”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Jarek mused.

“I am the one with the map, and you should turn left.”

“No, I mean this”—he tilted his head toward the back of the cart—“doesn’t make any sense. What could he have done to deserve that kind of punishment, and get sent home instead of being clapped into the nearest jail cell?”

“Dunno.” Martin waved his hand airily, chasing away a fly. “Maybe he killed someone.”

“Then he would be in prison or executed or both.”

“Maybe he killed the prince’s favorite dog.”

“Then he would be in prison or executed or both.”

Martin laughed.

“All I’m saying is this,” Jarek continued, “if you want to get rid of a weed, you don’t just clip some of its stems and call it a day.” The road they turned down had fewer houses. Ribbons of wind passed between the buildings and through the men’s sweaty hair. “The weed’ll grow back. There’s always the chance for revenge.”

“Him?” Martin laughed again. “Oh, I’m glad I picked you to drive. You’re a funny sort, you are. Weed or no, this fellow’s in no shape for action. Hold on now—” Martin looked at the map again and glanced at a tall, skinny stone house set far apart from the others. As they drew closer, they saw that the ground floor was a shop, its windows crowded with bizarre metal objects, clocks, and tin toys bouncing like grasshoppers. Jarek could not read the words painted over the door, but a sign hanging from the corner of the house showed a many-pointed compass. “Stop here,” Martin said. “This is it.”

Jarek pulled on the reins. His hands settled in his lap, but they still gripped the leather straps. “He may have sons. Angry ones.”

Martin thumped Jarek on the shoulder. “No fear, my friend,” he said, and pointed toward the door, which had opened. In the doorway stood a girl, tall for her age, which was twelve. Underneath a long tangle of brown hair her face was wary. She was dressed in a nightgown, but stood defiantly, as if to say that she knew that wasn’t normal but didn’t care. She stared straight at them. Her eyes were narrowed—but perhaps, Jarek thought, this was because of the sun and not because she already hated them.

Martin leaned to whisper in Jarek’s ear. “As I said, don’t worry. He’s only got her.”

It seemed to Jarek that his backache had gotten worse.

The mare sighed. Then she spoke silently in his mind the way she did with no other human, for she knew none who had Jarek’s gift to understand her. If you were a horse, she told him, you would be used to bearing such unpleasant burdens.

Excerpted from THE CABINET OF WONDERS by Marie Rutkoski.

Copyright © 2008 by Marie Rutkoski.

Published in 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Meet the Author

Marie Rutkoski is the author of The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders and The Celestial Globe. The Cabinet of Wonders, her debut novel, was named an Indie Next Kids’ List Great Read and a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, among other honors. Rutkoski grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She attended the University of Iowa, where she took Writers’ Workshop classes and studied with Pulitzer Prize-winner James Alan McPherson. After graduating, she lived in Moscow and Prague. Upon receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard University, she held dual appointments as a lecturer there in both English and American Literature and Language, and History and Literature. Rutkoski is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and creative writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and cat.

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The Cabinet of Wonders (The Kronos Chronicles Series #1) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about a girl that sets off to find her father's eyes when a prince steals them. They are very powerful eyes and they have the power to move and work with metal. Petra must gather her wits and make sure she holds on to them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is one of the better novels I have read. Although I read it as a project I enjoyed it even though I dislike reading on a normal basis. This book will keep you reading and reading until the end because of the cliff hangers at the end of the chapters. I do recommend this book, I think it is a very good read for children 11+. It combines passion with action and thrill that will cause you to keep reading and enjoy this book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In an alternate timeline where magic is common place, a girl named Petra is on a quest to find and return her father's magical eyes. With the help of a few friends, some gypsies, amd possibly an english spy for queen elizabeth she journeys to the the palace with a plan to break into the evil prince's most treasured posession - the cabinet of wonders. Will she succeed? Or is there more to this story than she ever thought possible... I loved this book! The emotions it evoked were real, who wouldn't go to the moon and back if they could do something for a loved one? The characters have spunk, and make mistakes, but they never give up hope. It had me laughing at some parts and crying out in outrage at others, and its got the perfect villain to hate. Definitely read this book and anything else by Rutkoski, she's a fabulous writer!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book.
Colton Nicholas More than 1 year ago
I don't LOVE this book, i just like it. I would give this book to a person that loves chapter books. I hope you like it mucch more than I do (You probably will).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cabinet if wonders will take u places!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is very pulling to want to be read. I could barely stop reading this very amazing book that i got from my nook. I really recomend it heartily to people who love fantasy, action, aswell as a tad bit of mystery because this is the right book for even people who don't like exactly the genre that i described earlier in my review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it was amazing. I felt like i was the main character
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing i think tjis is my favorite book ever i recomend it for 10 and up becuase of reading compey hention skills
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This thrilling adventure is a book that I could not put down till I found out the awnser my favorite character was the old woman that petra worked with please review if she is your favorite too.l
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Kept me entertained and on the edge of my seat the entire time
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I chose this for a book report and found that I had payed attention very well! I knew everything that happened. I recommend this book to anyone, whether you need a book report or not.
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