cover image The Counterclockwise Heart

The Counterclockwise Heart

Brian Farrey. Algonquin, $17.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61620-506-5

Prince Alphonsus, who has brown skin and was adopted as a foundling by the empress of Rehinvelt and her wife, has an ornate clock embedded in the middle of his chest instead of a human heart—and he soon discovers that it’s running backward and beating “in perfect time” with a similar clock in the Onyx Maiden, a statue of unknown origin that looms over a nearby village. Alphonsus’s path soon crosses that of pale-skinned, magic-wielding Esme, 12, who has been sent, on behalf of the reclusive Hierophant Collective, to kill the sorceress Nachtfrau, ensuring the Collective’s survival. Together, Esme and Alphonsus must save the empire, uncover the Onyx Maiden’s true purpose, and defeat a jealous, power-hungry royal advisor. Farrey (The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse) steadily draws in readers with a solemn, brisk tone and a setting reminiscent of classic fairy tales, adroitly working in complex issues, including the price that magic demands and the need for compassion and forgiveness, even in the face of evil. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)