Sunday, July 17, 2011

Puppet Master by Joanne Owen 

Prague 1898 and Milena Prochazova stands in the Old Town Square waiting for her friend Lukas. She observes the wooden statuettes appearing as the Astronomical clock strike the hour and recalls how according to legend the clocks creator was blinded.

Meandering through the city she comes to what was formally The House of Delights the former home of a puppet theatre run by her father. Now closed, the theatre is run down and ramshackle. While lost in her reverie Milena first encounters a sinister individual who calls himself the Puppet Master.

This meeting sets in motion an adventure where Milena and Lukas battle the Master as he accompanied by his assistants Zdenko and Zdenka attempts to take over Prague.

Lovers of Prague and its topography will find much to admire as Joanne Owen places all the action in and around the city. The reader will follow the heroes as they travel from the Old Town Square, over Charles Bridge and onto Mala Strana.

That Owen has done her research is also paramount. For example Milena’s grandmother Boiena Prochazkova lives in a house in Novy Svet called The Golden Acorn. To this day a house called the Golden Acorn exists in Novy Svet.

The many illustrations throughout the book add to the gothic feel of the tale and capture the mysterious and melancholic feel of Prague. References to Prague’s ancient legends such as Libuse and her Sister and The Ploughman King also highlight the mystique of the city and tie in nicely with the master’s attempts at subjugation.

Caveats I’d have would be that at one stage Boiena Prochazkova daughters are described as her daughters in law. Also when describing the children’s journey through Prague Owen lists the buildings they see, but she places them on the wrong side of the river. Perhaps I’m being too picky, I know Prague too well.

Otherwise I have no complaints. Puppet Master is Joanne Owen’s debut.


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