Book Review of ‘The Clockwork Queen’ by Peter Bunzl

The image is of the front cover of The Clockwork Queen by Peter Bunzl, a Barrington Stoke publication

When her grandmaster father is imprisoned in the dungeons of St Petersburg, Sophie plans to help him escape through an incredible chess-playing automaton called the Clockwork Queen.

But will she be able to outwit the Empress herself? A page-turning historical adventure from Cogheart author Peter Bunzl.

I recently heard about an automaton called The Mechanical Turk – an 18th century chess ‘machine’ that impressed its audiences by beating great chess players. Baffling its audiences for over eighty years, before being lost in a fire, it was finally discovered that it was in fact an elaborate hoax; someone could fit inside the chess table and would operate the Turk’s hands. It’s a fascinating idea for a story, and one that is delivered through the safe hands of Peter Bunzl (author of the Cogheart series) in this new Barrington Stoke title.

In this tale, we follow Sophie Peshka, a brilliantly clever child who has inherited the love of chess from her father. We see her learn the rules of the game as she accompanies her father to play chess in the park. The two are close and their tender relationship is one of respect and patience. He is everything to Sophie. When he is 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.

Her father, his situation and the Russian empress are all equally fascinating, yet it is Sophie who is the focus of the tale. It is she who must travel with the incredible chess automaton, The Clockwork Queen, to the Winter Palace. It is only she who can win back her father’s life.

Told simply, but with no lack of plot or characterisation, this is a great title for 8-12 year olds who are looking for a interesting read. It’s from Barrington Stoke, so it’s dyslexia-friendly, and is a quick no-nonsense read for any reader looking to get to the heart of a great story.

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