A young apprentice clock-maker despondently drinks his troubles away in a tavern the night before his final test and rite of passage. Everyone in town is expectant for the new mechanical figure the apprentice will add to the town’s clock the following day, but the apprentice hasn’t even started a design. When a dark stranger enters the tavern and offers the apprentice a miraculous piece of clockwork, and the apprentice accepts the gift, a series of interlocking events unfold as if set into motion like a music box is wound-up to play a song.

‘Tick, tock, tick, tock! Some stories are like that. Once you have wound them up, nothing will stop them; they move on forward till they reach their destined end….”

This suspenseful fairy tale creates a lovely sense of foreboding as time runs out. It’s wonderfully crafted, reminiscent of classics like Faust or Pinocchio, but with a modern structure that leaves you guessing until the end. I love how the the story-within-the-story genre is thwarted, and the reason the storyteller can’t finish the story is because it hasn’t happened yet. In fact, it is almost of if the storyteller invokes the dark stranger on that snowy night the first time he reads his new story aloud.

A quick and fun read that will stay with you. Recommended for young adults and adults young at heart.

“Fritz had to stop himself from interrupting when Karl spoke about the difficulty of working. Stories are just as hard as clocks to put together, and they can go wrong just as easily–as we shall soon see with Fritz’s own story in a page or two. Still, Fritz was an optimist, and Karl was a pessimist, and that makes all the difference in the world.”