The Cabinet of Wonders
The Kronos Chronicles: Book 1
by Marie Rutkoski
read April 2009
You would think my books read per month ratio would have gone up with nothing better to do, but it seems to have gone the other way. I’ve had to take two books back to the library mid-reading, due to holds on the items. I was about half-way through The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and about a quarter of the way through the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, two books that I was really enjoying! I can’t decide on The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center or Briar Rose by Jane Yolen for my next read. My mom also has The Lightning Thief ready for me to read as well. Hmmm…choices choices.
I really enjoyed The Cabinet of Wonders. I had to go back and figure out how I got it on my TBR list. After I looked into it, I remembered it was one of the 2008/2009 CYBIL nominees for Elementary/Middle Grade Fiction, loosing to Neil Gainman’s The Graveyard Book. The Graveyard Book was also this years Newbery award winner. My review can be found here.
For those of you unfamiliar with the CYBIL awards, CYBIL stands for Children’s and Young adult Blogger’s Literary Awards. I’ve been very pleased with the CYBIL winner/nominee’s I have read so far. To me, the people reading them are real, honest-to-goodness readers. To see a complete this of this years winners and nominee’s click here.
On to the book! Petra Kronos is a young girl living just outside of Prague with her father and cousins. But this Europe is unlike any Europe we know of. Take for example the fact that Petra’s father, Mikal, a metal worker, possesses magical powers that allow him to work without tools and create realistic metal animals who can talk and run on brassica oil.
Petra’s father has just been returned to her, but not in the condtion he left. He went to Prague to build a clock for the prince. Upon completion of his work, the prince had Master Kronos’s eyes removed.
Petra sets off on a mission to return her father’s eyes. Along the way she befriends a young “gypsy” boy named Neel. Ever present is her pet metal spider Astrophil. Together, Neel and Petra must find a way to stop the clock Petra’s father made from being abused by the prince’s greed and safely find her father’s eyes.
I love it when there is some realism in fantasy books. This book takes place in Bohemia, where the people speak Czech. It also incorporates references to most major European countries. I learned something from this book, which is always a plus in my eyes. I was unaware that the term, ‘Gypsy’ was originally used to describe people from Egypt. Well at least that is what the book says. I will be honest I didn’t look it up. I recently read another book where there were ‘gypsys’ but the people didnb’t like the term. They were Roma and spoke Romany. I’m trying to remember which book it was…I will have to look back. It was a recently read Caldecott book.
I am actually really looking forward to book two of this series! I would recommend this book as a nice lighthearted simple read. I would put it in the same group as a book like Ingrid Law’s, Savvy. Savvy is another book I absolutely loved. You can read my review here.
Themes: mild violence, death, infant death, prejudice
Characters: Petra Kronos, Mikal Kronos, Dita, Neel, Sadie, Prince Rodolfo, Iris, Tomik
Setting: a magical version of early Europe, namely Bohemia and the city of Prague.
Topic: Young Petra Kronos sets off to find her father’s eyes, which were stolen by the Prince, and discover more about the mystical clock her father built in the city of Prague. Her voyage will be less than simple in this magical version of Europe.
Post note here. I forgot one of my favorite things in the book. Neel, Petra’s Gypsy/Roma friend she meets in Prague calls her “pet”. I think it’s personal reasons that it made me smile, but I loved it. My husband is british and his “pet” name for me is either “pet” or “petal”. I’m sure Neel was just shortening Petra or Petrali as he called her…but I liked it anyways.