In Kate Ristau’s Clockbreakers, Charlie wishes that people would stop feeling sorry for her and just forget that she is in a wheelchair. Instead, at her eleventh birthday party Charlie receives a magic key from a stranger that unlocks portals. She is now a Clockbreaker, and she must cross to another time and place with her friends Maria and Trent to rescue her father who is lost somewhere in time.
This book is remarkable not only for its differently-abled protagonist, but also for the fine exhibition of craft Ristau displays.
First, Charlie, the protagonist, is in a wheelchair, but she doesn’t let the disability define her. She’s spunky and fun and determined and fierce whether her legs work or not. Also, the other characters in the main plot accept Charlie for who she is and do not lower their expectations of her. There is no wisp of pity, even when they are carrying her. Even the antagonist spends more time trying to take advantage of Charlie’s youth and not her physical limitations.
Ristau builds a world on top of familiar Greek mythology without either cheapening the original myths or using the old stories as an excuse to be lazy with her own imagination. She builds a labyrinth containing the Minotaur, but enlarges the maze so it fills square miles, and moves it to a vast desert. The original labyrinth was under Minos’s castle, which was not that huge.
Even the monsters in this book have rich backstories and complex emotions. Asterion, the Minotaur, is both a warrior and a gentle, patient soul with cow eyes. He’s a far cry from the virgin-eating half-man, half-bull prowling Minos’s dungeons.
However, if you want a true indication of how much I liked this book, here it is: I am handing my review copy off to my eight-year-old, who has been begging me for it since she saw the cover. I’m sure she will enjoy it even more than I did.