“Clockwork or All Wound Up” by Philip Pullman | Book Review

Book Review | Rating – 4/5 | Genre – Young Adult / Fantasy

I came across this book in a small charity bookshop in Nottingham. It was somewhere that I’d heard about during the first lockdown (worrying we can number the lockdowns), anywho, since then I’d wanted to visit the bookstore to see what it was like, as well as to support the small business during such troubling times.

The bookshow (Bookwise – more on them here) was adorable, it was stacked with shelves of second hand books, and run by the most adorable women. It felt super safe, with plastic gloves available at the door to browse the shelves without worrying about what you’re touching. Thats when I came across this book, a small book showcased at the front of the store. So, here is what I thought…

A tormented apprentice clock-maker, a deadly mechanical knight in armour – and the sinister Dr Kalmenius, who some say is the devil … Wind up these characters, fit them into a story on a cold winter’s evening, with the snow swirling down, and suddenly life and the story begin to merge in a peculiarly macabre – and unstoppable – way. (synopsis from Goodreads)

What did I think?

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this one, obviously with it being a Philip Pullman book, I was anticipating a fantasy element, I was correct in that thought. But, outside of that, it looked like a children’s book. The jury is still out as to whether this is a children’s book or not, it is fairly intense and features some very dark themes throughout; then again Neil Gaiman does the same thing so who is really to judge.

As for personal opinion; I really enjoyed the book. It features three inter-locking stories around a clockwork maker who’s skills far exceed what the German Townsfolk understand. Part one was by far my favourite of the story; it read very much like a short story. There was a good deal of suspense towards then end, to the point where I was genuinely concerned as to what was going to happen. Not to say the other parts weren’t as exciting, they just didn’t put me on edge as much as the first part.

So what were my favourite bits?

  • Detailed world and characters: for such a small book, Pullman managed to craft the small German town with such detail that I could easily picture it in my mind. This attention to detail was attributed to each of the main characters as well, giving them enough depth to care about what will happen to each on. Of course, there is a sense of simplicity to it, but this can be attributed to it being a short story, therefore not as many words could be used.
  • Dark and twisted: Like many of the books I enjoy reading, there was an unexpected dark nature to the overall story. The fantastical children’s story I was expecting, soon twisted itself into a much darker and more suspense filled adventure.


I very much enjoyed the story; from the detailed world that was created, down to the suspense and chilling tale that was told. Obviously it is a book for a much younger reader, so the wording was a lot more “simplistic” than other books I’ve read, but I hardly judge the book for what I chose to read. It was also a short story that I didn’t mind being short, there could always be more added to any story, but this came to a satisfying enough ending for me to be content with the book ending when it did.

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