Book Review: The Nine Pound Hammer

The blood of American Tall Tales runs thick throughout this first book of a young adult series called The Clockwork Dark, which centers on the adventures of a 12-year-old boy, Ray, and his new magical friends who must battle an evil creature who seeks to destroy .. the world? Well, it wasn’t exactly always clear to me what the GOG wanted to do, to be honest, (nor why he needed a Siren to do it). While I was drawn in by the use of tall tales (particularly the fable of John Henry, and his son, and the nine pound magical hammer from which the book gets its name), I kept losing track of the story and the characters.

(And I appreciated the author’s notes at the end of the novel, as writer John Claude Bemis explained how he came up with the idea for the series after singing the traditional song about John Henry, and wanting to make a story that did not use European-centered themes of knights and quests, but one that tapped into Americana.)

I kept reading The Nine Pound Hammer, though, because I wanted to like the story (it helps that Bemis is a former teacher), and I would get rewarded at times with action and suspense, and interesting characters. It just felt unfocused and muddled one time too many for me. I wanted to be more centered on the John Henry angle, and I didn’t always get that. Darn it. (And the cover is so intriguing).

I don’t expect to keep reading the series, but maybe I will find a reader in my class who will be drawn in by the legend of Tall Tales and the sense of adventure.

Peace (in the hammer-time),


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