School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—. On a wintery night shortly before Christmas, Seren finds herself at the train station, off to start a new life as her godfather's ward. She's thrilled at the turn of events, but her journey to Wales gets off to a bumpy start when a frightened stranger leaves a parcel with her. Not knowing what to do, she takes it with her. The strange doesn't end there, however. When she arrives, the manor is empty but for a few curmudgeonly staff; her godfather is not there, nor his wife, nor their son Tomos. And the parcel? It contains a magic, mechanical crow who is not prepared to be any sort of helpful conscience, and who certainly isn't interested in the mounting mystery of what really happened to Tomos and the growing rumors of fairies. VERDICT Originally published in England and making its U.S., debut, this novel features excellent world-building and an engaging caper with supernatural elements.—Sarah Voels, Cedar Rapids P.L., IA
Young Seren Rhys stands on the cusp of a new life. Unfortunately for her, the train to her new life is late.
Following the death of her aunt, who saved her from her 12-year stay at the orphanage, she receives word that her godfather, Capt. Arthur Jones, will take her in. Seren spends her wait dreaming of the Jones family and their surely bustling, welcoming manor, Plas-y-Fran in Wales. An encounter with a mysterious man and his more mysterious wrapped parcel (containing the eponymous mechanical bird) leaves Seren reeling, and the mysteries multiply when she arrives at Plas-y-Fran. The place is shuttered and cold, nearly deserted but for a few fearful, oppressively unforthcoming servants. The captain and his wife are away; of their young son, Tomos, there is neither sign nor sound. With the Crow as her only, if reluctant, ally, Seren soon finds herself enmeshed in mayhem and magic that may prove lethal. In her characteristic style, Fisher crafts an elaborate fantasy from deceptively simple language. Seren is a sharp, saucy narrator whose constant puzzlement at others’ consternation over her impertinence provides running amusement. Supporting characters are fascinating if ambiguous players, not so much poorly drawn as poorly revealed, perhaps casualties of the quick pace. The deadened manor, however, provides the perfect backdrop for preternatural forces. Characters are presumed white.
A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel. (Fantasy. 9-12)
From the Publisher
A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel.
The terrifically engaging tale combines the old-fashioned charms of a manor-house mystery with elements of classic fantasy, establishing a world rich in details while leaving enough unknown to pique curiosity.
This quick novel is chock-full of snowy magic perfect for the holidays; fans of detective stories, like Seren herself, will appreciate her aptitude for getting into trouble through her drive to investigate the unknown. After Seren’s hard life, she gets a well-deserved, if a little too neatly wrapped, happy ending, but readers will be thrilled to know that this UK import already has a sequel that may soon arrive in the U.S.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Originally published in England and making its U.S., debut, this novel features excellent world-building and an engaging caper with supernatural elements.
—School Library Journal