Matthew Kirby is a new author (for both me and the reading audience in general). In his day job, he works with children as a school psychologist in
. If this debut novel is any indicator, he may be changing his day job soon. “Why?” you ask. I think that the success of this first novel can be attributed to his love for telling stories—according to his bio, he’s been doing it since he was a youngster. Utah
The city in the story bears a strong resemblance to 19th century
because of the inspirational story of a boy who almost single-handedly derailed the abusive child-labor practices. Kirby’s story focuses on three children who have their own spectacular stories to tell. Giuseppe is a young street musician whose life is changed the moment he fishes a beautiful green violin from the wreckage of a shipwreck in the bay. Hannah, a maid in the grand hotel in the heart of the city, is struggling to be the sole support of her family (a disabled father, his wife who must stay home to care for him, and two younger sisters—twins). She has given up her hopes of education although she continues to read the classics. A strange guest with a Russian protector becomes her friend and provider. And then, there is Frederick, the orphaned apprentice of a humble clockmaker. New York is focused on becoming a journeyman so that he can open his own shop. Frederick
The story brings these three together in the most unlikely of situations. It is filled with action, adventure, and magic. The characters—heroes and villains alike—are compelling and lifelike. But the most exciting part of the book is its destiny to become a classic. Kirby’s use of descriptive language and movement provides excellent examples to be used in any literature or creative writing class. He is truly a wordsmith of the highest degree.
I have to give him five out of five reading glasses for his first effort, and can’t wait to get my hands on Icefall (his second novel due out in October). [Modesty prevents me from begging for a review copy—actually no it doesn't and I'm begging, Scholastic are you listening?]
—Benjamin Potter, September 15, 2011