Written by Philip Pullman

Illustrated by Leonid Gore

A breathtaking masterpiece from the author of The Golden Compass.

Imagine you’re an apprentice clock-maker. It is the day before you are supposed to unveil your personal masterpiece – an addition to the great clock tower in the center of town, the final step in your training. But you haven’t created a masterpiece. You haven’t created anything. Tomorrow will be your greatest humiliation, rather than a triumph.

But then a shadowy, sinister figure steps out of a story and offers you a clockwork statue of a knight, so intricate, so real, that to pass it off as yours would make you forever famous. Would it matter that this knight will seek out and kill anyone who utters the word “devil”? Would it matter that the price might be your soul?

The stories of Karl, the apprentice; Dr. Kalmenius, his nefarious “savior”; Gretl, the brave daughter of the town innkeeper; and a young prince whose clockwork heart is in danger of winding down come together in surprising and magical ways in a story that has behind it the relentless urgency of a ticking clock.

With this novella, as finely wrought as an exquisite timepiece, Philip Pullman shows again why he is considered one of the great writers of our time.


In the sledge was the most perfect piece of metal sculpture he had ever seen. It was the figure of a knight in armor, made of gleaming, silvery metal, holding a sharp sword. Karl gasped at the detail, and walked around looking at it from all angles. Every piece of armor plating was polished and shiny and tightly riveted to the next, and as for the sword - 

He touched it and drew his hand back at once, looking at the blood running down his fingers.

“It’s like a razor,” he said.

“Only the best will do for Sir Ironsoul,” said Dr. Kalmenius.

“Sir Ironsoul... what a piece of work! Oh, if this were in the tower among the other figures, my name would be made forever!” said Karl bitterly. “And how does he move? What does he do? He does work by clockwork, I suppose? Or is there some kind of goblin in there? A spirit or a devil of some kind?”

With a smooth whirr and a ticking of delicate machinery, the figure began to move. The knight raised his sword and turned his helmeted head to look for Karl, and then stepped off the sledge and moved towards him. 

Reviews and Awards

Booklist Top Ten Fantasy Novels for Youth, 1998-99
ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
IRA Children’s Choice for 1999
First Place for Manufacturing and Design Excellence, Bookbinder’s Guild of New York
Highly commended for the Carnegie Medal
Shortlisted for the Whitbread Children’s Award
Shortlisted for the Smarties Prize

⋆ “Pullman, the consummate storyteller, offers a deliciously spooky story combining elements of Frankenstein, the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Faust. . . . Deceptively simple on the first reading, the novel contains some complex reflections on the nature of reality and of good and evil. . . . [The] soft-edged drawings, full of light and shadow, are extremely well crafted and satisfyingly strange. Read this one aloud and discuss it afterward.” - Booklist, starred review

⋆ “In signature Pullman style, each character gets his or her just deserts with a fairy-tale ending that pays fitting and playful tribute to the story's twin obsessions: "So they both lived happily ever after; and that was how they all wound up." Gore's haunting black-and-white drawings both dramatize key events and reveal something of the characters' psyches. His visual artistry coupled with the luxurious design of this hand-sized volume makes this a tale to return to time after time. “ - Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Filled with tension, menace and suspense… Readers… will remained riveted until the final page.” - The Horn Book

“All in all, a perfect little chiller.” – The Washington Post School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Purchase Options
Indiebound • Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Fall 1998
Illustrated Novel
ISBN: 0-590-1299-6
Price: $16.95/$22.99
Trim Size: 5 3/8" x 6 7/8"
Page Count: 128
Foreign Rights: Transworld Publishers
Translation Rights: Transworld Publishers
Rights Available? yes

Also see: