A magical new world: Read our review of A Clock of Stars by Francesca Gibbons and Chris Riddell

A magical new world: Read our review of A Clock of Stars by Francesca Gibbons and Chris Riddell

Imogen and her little sister Marie are not perfect children. They fight and yell, and are rude and obnoxious to each other, to their mum and to their grandmother. These sisters, who become the heroes of the story, are introduced as rather tiresome and disagreeable characters. 

While sulking in a wild abandoned garden, Imogen follows an interesting moth which leads her to a door in a tree. This door is a portal to a magical world. Marie follows Imogen through the door and soon the two of them are embroiled in a race from evil monsters. A young boy, Miro, offers them refuge behind a locked door, saving them from certain death and forming a friendship which becomes central to the story. 

Miro is a young prince and they find refuge in his castle. His land is ruled by his uncle, King Drakomor, who is in charge until the young prince comes of age and becomes king. Drakomor is a foolish man, obsessed with possessions and gathering treasures in the castle. He falls in love with an evil woman who wants to be queen. 

The scene is set, the world is explained and now the real adventure begins. 

This story is a fast-paced and scary tale which incorporates many of the key ingredients of traditional fairy tales and fantasy stories: a villainous stepmother figure, a foolish and hard-hearted king, a young prince whose life is in danger due to a scheming relative, monstrous and misunderstood enemies, a stolen treasure that must be returned so that harmony can be restored, a brave and clever hunter, a dancing bear, a prophetic witch and a magical clock that warns of future events. 

Miro, Imogen and Marie embark on a quest which tests their courage and friendship, with each character learning important lessons about themselves which change their outlook and behaviours. They learn to take responsibility for their own actions.  They identify values they expect others to demonstrate and they consider whether they are living those values themselves. By the end of the story, we see that these children have transformed in numerous ways, becoming much more likeable characters. We want them to succeed and find happiness. 

This is not a story for the faint-hearted! There are some rather gruesome details. The monsters like to “slice and dice” their victims. Prejudice and bigotry are demonstrated by some characters. I found the cruelty to animals confronting. The story and characters create many points for discussion which will make this a useful book in classrooms, libraries and at home. Reader notes or teaching notes would be useful. 

I would recommend this book for readers 10+ and all fans of The Chronicles of Narnia. It is part of a trilogy so fans of series will be confident to invest in learning about the world and its characters. There is a satisfying conclusion with just enough left unresolved to make the reader curious about the next book. I can imagine fans of this series will graduate to books such as The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and the Earthsea books by Ursula Le Guin. It’s a great entry to a world of marvellous reading! 


A timeless fantasy: Take a sneak peek at A Clock of Stars by Francesca Gibbons and Chris Riddell

Review | Extract

22 October 2020

A timeless fantasy: Take a sneak peek at A Clock of Stars by Francesca Gibbons and Chris Riddell

Publisher details

A Clock of Stars
Chris Riddell, Francesca Gibbons
Children’s Fiction
29 October, 2020


With all the magic of Narnia and the humour of Mary Poppins, this is a future middle grade fantasy classic – and the beginning of an unforgettable journey…Imogen should be nice to her little sister Marie. She should be nice to her mum's boyfriend too. And she certainly shouldn't follow a strange silver moth through a door in a tree. But then… who does what they're told?Followed by Marie, Imogen finds herself falling into a magical kingdom where the two sisters are swept up in a thrilling race against time – helped by the spoiled prince of the kingdom, a dancing bear, a very grumpy hunter… and even the stars above them.Thrilling, sharply funny, and with characters you will fall in love with, A Clock of Stars is a timeless fantasy from an astonishing new voice.
Francesca Gibbons
About the author

Francesca Gibbons

Francesca Gibbons has been telling tall tales for as long as she can remember. She had the idea for The Shadow Moth when she was a child. Now it's the first book in her middle-grade trilogy, A Clock of Stars, due to be published by HarperCollins in October 2020.Fran did most of her growing up in Staffordshire. She read English at the University of Bristol and now lives in the Cotswolds with her husband. She also works as a freelance copywriter.

Books by Francesca Gibbons

Chris Riddell
About the author

Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell is an author, political cartoonist (for The Observer), and the illustrator of A Great Big Cuddle by Michael Rosen. His other books include Pirate Diary and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, both winners of the Kate Greenaway Medal, as well as Castle Diary. He won the Smarties Prize in 2008. Chris lives in Brighton.

Books by Chris Riddell


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