There is something really comforting about A.M. Howell's writing. Her prose is beautiful, startling and vivid, without ever feeling laboured. As with her excellent debut, 'The House of One Hundred Clocks' is full of mystery, period detail and characters to adore. In some ways I enjoyed it even more than 'The Garden of Lost Secrets', and that's saying something!
When Helena's father is appointed clock-winder to the wealthy Mr Westcott in Cambridge, everything changes in their lives. Each day the clocks need winding and repairing because if they stop then Helena and her father will face dire consequences. But Mr Westcott's house is full of mysteries. Underneath the faces there seems to be more at work. And Helena is desperate to find out what.
Set in 1905 this is pure Edwardian escapism: quaintness, intrigue and innovation abound. Howell brilliantly sets up the conceit with a fabulous opening chapter that draws you in immediately. Mystery upon mystery is wound up with expert precision, until revelations swing to the fore like a narrative pendulum. But Howell does this with subtlety,; delicately revealing more about her characters with tenderness and compassion. Her descriptions bring depth and detail to the era, while somehow working as part of the mechanism of the story. Howell is like the Sarah Waters of children's fiction. And as I see it there are two queens of children's historical fiction currently: Carroll and Howell! Make sure you read them both.
I really enjoyed 'The House of One Hundred Clocks'. It is atmospheric, warm, exciting and such a joy to read. I can't believe this is only Howell's second book. Keep ticking away at what you're doing. Brilliant stuff.