Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Counterclockwise Heart!!! Pull up a chair and enjoy my review. Also, be on the lookout for any clocks going backward or strange onyx statues mysteriously appearing. There might be something happening!!
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Date of publication: February 1st, 2022
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .
Time is running out in the empire of Rheinvelt.
The sudden appearance of a strange and frightening statue foretells darkness. The Hierophants—magic users of the highest order—have fled the land. And the shadowy beasts of the nearby Hinterlands are gathering near the borders, preparing for an attack.
Young Prince Alphonsus is sent by his mother, the Empress Sabine, to reassure the people while she works to quell the threat of war. But Alphonsus has other problems on his mind, including a great secret: He has a clock in his chest where his heart should be—and it’s begun to run backward, counting down to his unknown fate.
Searching for answers about the clock, Alphonsus meets Esme, a Hierophant girl who has returned to the empire in search of a sorceress known as the Nachtfrau. When riddles from their shared past threaten the future of the empire, Alphonsus and Esme must learn to trust each other and work together to save it—or see the destruction of everything they both love.
The empire of Rheinvelt when the people of Somber End awoke to fine the Onyx Maiden in their tiny villagethe counterclockwise heart by brian farrey
When I returned from my hiatus in early 2021, I decided to do blog tours. When Algonquin Young Readers approached me to not only be on the blog tour for The Counterclockwise Heart but to read/review it, I almost turned it down. I didn’t (and still don’t) like being tied down to a specific time to have a review done. But, I decided to accept because I wanted to read the book, and if it meant doing a blog tour, I’d do it. I am glad that I accepted because I enjoyed reading this book so much that I went and bought it for my kids.
The Counterclockwise Heart is the story of Alphonsus, the young Prince of the empire of Rheinvelt. He is sent by his mother, Empress Sabine, to the village of Somber End. In Somber End, there is a giant onyx statue named the Onyx Maiden. There is also a young man, Guntram, who has been talking to the Onyx Maiden daily and is bitter about being replaced by Alphonsus. Things change when the Maiden moves when Alphonsus talks to it, and Guntram’s bitterness spirals into hatred and rage. While that is happening, a young Hierophant named Esme has just arrived in Rheinvelt. The Collective of Hierophants has sent her to find the Nachtfrau, who happens to be Esme’s mother. The Collective expects Esme to do is mind-boggling but what she does when she meets the Nachtfrau surprises her more. What will happen when Esme and Alphonsus meet up? Will Guntram get his way?
The Counterclockwise Heart had a fast-paced plotline, even with the 3 (and sometimes 4) different POVs‘. What surprised me more was that the author could keep the book’s flow going and avoid the lag that could happen. That made for a more enjoyable reading experience for me.
I will log a teeny tiny complaint before I go into the rest of my review. Before I get into it, I want to clarify that this had zero effect on my enjoyment of the book, but it did annoy me. The first line of every chapter was abbreviated (see my first line above). I had to guess who it was and what they were doing. As I said, it was annoying but didn’t affect my reading in any way. It seemed more like a formatting issue than an editing mistake.
The Counterclockwise Heart is rated as a middle-grade fantasy. For the most part, I agree, but I would highly recommend that parents read this book if they are planning on letting younger kids (under 10-11) read it. There are several scenes that I feel would scare the little one.
I did feel bad for Alphonsus, but I liked that he rose over all obstacles thrown in his way. I liked that he was written as your typical tween. He was down to earth, a little sheltered, and one of the sweetest characters that I have met. He was able to see through Guntram’s facade, and he did try to warn his mother/guards of what was going on. His connection with the Maiden was sweet, and I laughed when he was trying to teach her to talk. But it was his immediate connection with Esme that I liked. I also liked that he could absorb everything that life threw at him and seemed to come out the other end relatively unscathed. I mean, his whole world was turned upside down, and he processed everything with an understanding that went beyond his years.
I loved Esme, but I felt that she was a little too over the top with her hatred of the Nachtfrau. It did bother me that she refused to listen to her or let the Nachtfrau explain. But, it was meant to be in the grand scheme of things, whether I like it or not. I enjoyed Esme’s gradual awakening to the fact that maybe not everything The Collective had told her. I felt that it fleshed her character out.
I did find her use of magic fascinating. I also found it one of the better explanations of magic in any of the books I have read. Magic was a give-and-take balance. So if Esme were to cast an earth-based spell, she would be thirsty afterward. Using too much magic could kill a user at the worse or the best, making them very sick. It was fascinating, and I enjoyed reading about Esme using it.
I know that Guntram was the villain, but I couldn’t help feel bad for him at first. I understood why he felt betrayed by the Maiden. He spent ten years pouring his heart out to her, and she moved for Alphonsus. I would have been mad too. But to have his betrayal and anger morph into what it became? At that point, I stopped feeling bad for him and thought that he got what he deserved. The Maiden, later on in the book, put it best.
The secondary characters were just as vivid and fleshed out as the main characters. They made the book easier to read and added more depth to the plotline.
The end of The Counterclockwise Heart broke my heart and uplifted me simultaneously. I can’t get into it (spoilers), but every question asked in the book was answered. Nothing was left unanswered (even if it broke my heart). I hope there will be a second book because I would love to read more about Esme and Alphonsus’s adventures.
I would recommend The Counterclockwise Heart to anyone over 11. I would strongly suggest the parents read this book if they have younger kids reading it. There is violence. It is a clean book.