Clockwork, by Philip Pullman
There are few writers who are as good at raising chills and creating an atmosphere of unease as Philip Pullman; his stories of the macabre should find readers of any age looking over their shoulders on dark autumn nights.
In Clockwork, Pullman starts off as many ghost stories do, with a narrator telling a gathered audience a scary tale to enliven a cold winter’s evening. In this case, the audience are the townsfolk of a small village in Germany, who are gathered in the White Horse Tavern to hear local writer Fritz spin his newest story. He has just introduced the character who looks to be a possible villain in the story when who should walk in but the man himself, Dr. Kalmenius, whose “eyes blazed like coals in caverns of darkness.” With Fritz leading the way, the townsfolk all quickly make their excuses and leave the tavern, all except the apprentice clock maker, Karl, who has been unable to complete the masterwork that will end his apprenticeship. As you probably guess, Kalmenius makes an offer to Karl that appears good on first glance, but when you deal with the powers of darkness, you put body and soul in peril, as Karl finds to his great discomfort.
You’ll need to get the book to find out the rest of the story, but suffice it to say that it involves a plucky serving maid, a lost prince, a relentless knight, and, hovering over all, the spectral figure of Dr. Kalmenius and his work. Clockwork would be a great book to read aloud on a cool night when the moon is full. Just be careful, because when you start a story you never know who might show up in it.
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