Overview -

Marie Rutkoski's startling debut novel, the first book in the Kronos Chronicles, about the risks we take to protect those we love, brims with magic, political intrigue, and heroism.

Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it's never been ordinary.  Read more...


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Marie Rutkoski's startling debut novel, the first book in the Kronos Chronicles, about the risks we take to protect those we love, brims with magic, political intrigue, and heroism.

Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it's never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world's finest astronomical clock. Petra's life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn't know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father's eyes back. Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father's clock has powers capable of destroying their world.

The Cabinet of Wonders is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.


  • ISBN-13: 9780374310264
  • ISBN-10: 0374310262

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 63.
  • Review Date: 2008-08-18
  • Reviewer: Staff

Add this heady mix of history and enchantment to the season's list of astonishingly accomplished first novels: in Rutkoski's multilayered version of late–16th-century Bohemia, magicians coexist with peasants and courtiers, a tribe of gypsies use specially endowed “ghost” fingers, and the fate of Europe hangs on the schemes of an evil prince. As the novel opens, a metalworker with extraordinary gifts has returned from Prince Rodolfo's palace in Prague, having finished his commission to build a magical clock—but the prince has gouged out his eyes, so that he can never duplicate the clock or, worse, better it. Even more disturbingly, the prince wears the eyes himself. Vowing to recover her father's eyes, 12-year-old Petra sneaks off to Prague, with little more than the company of Astrophil, an erudite tin spider who can communicate with her. Proving herself a worthy relative of, say, Philip Pullman's quick-thinking, fearless heroines, Petra navigates her way past sorceress countesses, English spy magicians, dangerous gypsies and through bewitched palace halls until Rodolfo, wearing the ill-gotten eyes, catches sight of her. Infusions of folklore (and Rutkoski's embellishments of them) don't slow the fast plot but more deeply entrance readers.

BookPage Reviews

In this fantasy, the eyes have it

Peculiar magic, royal adventures and Bohemian intrigue dominate the pages of The Cabinet of Wonders, Marie Rutkoski's debut children's novel and the first installment of her new series, The Kronos Chronicles. Rutkoski offers an imaginative look at the Early Modern era with a cast that features the inquisitive Kronos family and their army of tin pets, gypsy friends with curiously magical talents and one chillingly ambitious Hapsburg prince.

Magic is a luxury reserved for the elite in Bohemia, but a few artisans such as Mikal Kronos have managed to develop their abilities without schooling. Petra Kronos envies the magical abilities of her father, a local metalworker who uses invisible tools, builds objects with his mind and gives life to an amusing menagerie of metal animals. But after the ruthless Prince Rodolfo commissions Mikal to build the grandest astronomical clock in history, he returns to his daughter without reimbursement and without a pair of eyes. After learning of the clock's destructive powers, Petra escapes to Prague with the goal of recapturing her father's eyes and destroying his creation.

Slaving for weeks on end in the bowels of the castle as a dye worker, Petra uses patience and some plucky exploits to lead her into the acquaintance of Rodolfo. In his inner chambers she discovers the Cabinet of Wonders, a curious collection of magical artifacts, as well as the holding cell for her father's eyes, which the prince wears to harness Kronos' powers. Petra's success is greatly owed to clever characters like Neel, a gypsy boy with invisible finger extensions perfect for lock picking, and friend Tomik, who can trap floods and lightning into tiny glass marbles. In this adventure, however, the sidekick steals the show. Hiding in Petra's gnarled hair is her pet tin spider Astrophil, an amusing travel companion whose appetite for books and distaste for brazen heroics make him the best fictional spider since E.B. White's Charlotte.

Though Rutkoski wraps up her magical tale beautifully, her lovable cast and intriguing scenarios are certain to bring readers back for a second round in The Kronos Chronicles. How else will readers retrieve the contents in that curious Cabinet of Wonders?

BAM Customer Reviews