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The Clockill and the Thief by Gareth Ward

Sin is dying, poisoned by his blue blood. His troubles deepen when the traitor who poison him escapes from the custody of the Covert Operations Group and sets out for revenge. Sin, his friend Zonda, and their frenemy Velvet must recapture the traitor, whatever the cost.

Taking to the air in pursuit, they battle sky pirates and the terrifying Clockill on their mission. With Sin’s condition worsening, can he survive long enough to save his friends, himself, and the day?

This book is the sequel to the equally action-packed The Traitor and the Thief, which won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished manuscript.

However, if you don’t have a chance to read the first book, don’t panic. The Clockill is still easy to follow and author Gareth Ward helpfully fills in any gaps in your prior knowledge in a succinct way with the sequel.

Ward’s colourful careers give him plenty to draw on for the story. Also known as the Great Wardini, the magician expertly weaves moments of childlike wonder into the story, and he understands the power of words. He has also spent time in the police force and his experiences there certainly lend to the action, drama and high-stakes elements of the book. Training as a commando has given him an insight into the mentality of a soldier and the rigors of the military. Combine elements and understanding from all of these experiences, and you have the basis of a brilliant adventure story.

Ward’s dark humour is spot on, and his pacing is perfect. The Clockill and the Thief caught my attention from the very first page until the last sentence. It is a gripping read.

The characters are realistic, despite their fantastical setting, and Ward doesn’t shy away from highlighting the realities of friendships in all their glory. There are niggles, fights and misunderstandings between the children.

The steampunk theme could be a put off for some readers just by reading the blurb, but Ward does a brilliant job with it.

While set in a steampunk world, Ward has said he tries to extrapolate the science from real life. The inventions seem quite fantastical, but, for example, the new armoured flight suits are based on current experiments into armour using non-Newtonian fluids. This platform of reality helps scaffold younger readers – the world is within the realms of reality, while also allowing them to stretch their imagination.

The steampunk adventure story is perfect for upper primary-aged readers, with plenty of action, tested friendships, and drama. A fantastic follow-up that is as perfectly executed as it’s predecessor.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Walker Books, RRP $19.99


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