Children's & Young Adult Books

A new world of magic: ‘A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth’ by Francesca Gibbons

Lately I have noticed a whole crop of new children’s authors writing terrific fantasy stories for younger and middle grade readers; many with young female protagonists who drive the action. Francesca Gibbons is one such author. The Shadow Moth is her debut, the first in A Clock of Stars trilogy.

Imogen and her younger sister Marie argue and bicker like most siblings, and Imogen has a temper (and a tendency towards impulsive action which can sometimes get her into trouble.) When the two girls follow a strange moth through a door in a tree, they fall into a magical world where adventures – and dangers – await.

They meet strange creatures, fierce monsters, a lonely prince with a soon-to-be wicked stepmother, a giant, forest people and a king. Finding their way back home is harder than they think and they must rescue the prince and confront the monster king at the top of the mountain before they can return.

There is the Clock of Stars which shows the future at every hour, and a mountain and forests that are sick and dying because the mountain has lost its heart – the fabled Sertze Hora stone:

‘The Sertza Hora is a living thing: the mountain’s beating heart. It puts leaves on the trees and clean water in the rivers. And, since you humans decided to rip the heart from the body, we’ve all been bleeding to death.’

The Shadow Moth p358

The gentle environmental theme is accompanied by a poke at other concerns: Imogen’s ‘worry creatures’ that keep her awake at night; Prince Miro’s loneliness in a castle without friends; learning to accept difference in others. None of this is didactic and it’s all wrapped up in a roller coaster ride through a world full of magic, danger and, for Imogen and Marie, a chance to learn to appreciate the home, Mum and Grandma they left behind.

The black and white illustrations by Chris Riddell help the amazing characters come to life.

Youngsters who enjoy books like the Nevermoor series, Havoc! or Starfell will love the fast paced magic of this new offering for kids.

A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books on 7 October 2020.

My thanks to the publishers for a copy to read and review.

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