MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books, now with a re-vamped banner!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Peter Bunzl
Cover Illustration by Lia Visirin
Published by Barrington Stoke

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

“Learn from the masters in this book. Then, the next time we meet, you will be good enough to beat me.”

This book in three words:


The Clockwork Queen is a gripping, action-packed historical adventure which I absolutely raced through as I was so invested in Sophie’s life.  This is both a heart-breaking and touching story of family and friendship that gives a fascinating insight into the place of chess in 18th century Russia.

On her tenth birthday, Sophie Peshka’s father, Ivan, a chess grandmaster, leaves her and her mother after an invite from the Empress, Catherine the Great, to journey to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to teach her son how to play chess.  Sophie, herself a chess prodigy, loved playing chess with her father so, when he leaves her his board and a copy of his book, Masters of Chess, she continues to perfect her skills in his absence.

After Sophie and her mother stop receiving letters and money from Ivan, she discovers that he has been imprisoned by the Empress, and their lives become much harder.

Sophie longs to make the long journey to the Winter Palace to rescue her father, so when an opportunity arises, she agrees even though it may place her in great danger.   She travels to St Petersburg with the owners of an incredible chess-playing automaton, the Clockwork Queen.  Can a Queen outplay an Empress in a contest where lives are at risk? 

This is a brilliantly fast-paced, exciting adventure – with danger, tension and surprises – which really drew me into the world of a young chess prodigy determined to seek justice.  Sophie is an incredibly sympathetic protagonist.  She loses her father to the whims of a powerful ruler, but continues to perfect the game both she and he love, in order to survive and in the hope that she will eventually be reunited with her father.

I really enjoyed the setting of 18th century Russia under the rule of Catherine the Great; the introduction of the automaton chess player; and, the insight into the game of chess which my nephew has tried to teach me, but with not much success!

The illustrations are stunning and complement the story beautifully, really evoking this period of history, the fascination with chess and the character emotions.

The Clockwork Queen is a thrilling, action-packed adventure that is perfect for readers of 8+.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

2 thoughts on “MG Takes on Thursday

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