Thursday 17 December 2020

A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth


A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth by Francesca Gibbons, illustrated by Chris Riddell (HarperCollins) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN 9780008355050

 Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Imogen is a disgruntled eleven-year-old, frustrated with her mum, her mum’s newest boyfriend, and her younger sister Marie, when she follows an unusual-looking moth through a door in a tree. But finding herself lost in a monster-infested parallel world is not the worst of it: Marie has followed her through the door. Together the sisters convince a prince and a huntress to help them find their way home - but can they also help the embattled kingdom redress its wrongs along the way?

From the colourful front cover to the ominous final words, this opening book in the A Clock of Stars series lures the reader into a luscious fantasy world. The idea of a magical mystery world hiding through forest fairy doors is an evergreen one for good reason. Children large and small alike find it irresistible to imagine what may lie beyond -- but they rarely envisage the hideous, fanged troll-like creatures that initially appear to be the nemesis of this story.

The plot resolves itself into a layered exploration of past wrongs, ambition, friendship, and bravery. With one exception, none of the characters are either wholly good or wholly evil. They are unique, complex souls with individual peccadillos, interests, and strengths. That said, the evil stepmother-in-waiting appears to have stepped directly out of Cinderella or Snow White. It will be interesting to see if the reader is given the chance to reconsider her position as the ‘bad guy’ in future instalments.

The forest flora is given a refreshing amount of focus, with plants and insects taking centre stage instead of the furry animals which usually dominate children’s books. The detailed line drawings are magnetic, drawing the reader back again and again to study features and expression. The gallery of character portraits is a particularly engaging way to introduce the story, although I would have loved to see a map as well.

There is an attempt to explore Imogen’s anxiety through her internal interaction with what she thinks of as ‘worry creatures’. While any focus on anxiety in children’s books should be encouraged, Imogen’s worry creatures probably needed to be introduced in the otherwise excellent early scene-setting chapters and integrated more smoothly throughout. While Imogen seems able to easily brush her worry creatures aside, it would be more interesting to see her working to overcome them in a way that feeds into the plot.

The Shadow Moth is a fun, quirky adventure novel which rings emotionally true, and will appeal to fantasy fans aged 8 years and above. Clocking in at 477 pages, it could be the perfect summer holiday read.

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