This first book in The Orloj series is a young adult story about an eccentric pedagogue who uses storytelling and poetry to share magical life-altering events of his youth.
Following in his beloved adoptive father’s footsteps, 35-year-old Erasmus Cromwell-Smith II has been inspiring students with his literature and poetry classes for over a decade. This semester, he tells his 500 auditorium attendees and 10,000 global webcast participants they’ll embark on a journey to revisit his adventurous childhood, experienced during a trip to Prague. In a Harry Potter/Alice in Wonderland blend of “nothing is what it seems,” this story transports readers to an Old World realm marked by dreams and illusions.
In Prague, the citadel of wizardry, young Erasmus learns about “The Orloj,” an ancient town hall clock with an entrance to a secret world. Joined by five other youngsters from across the globe, Erasmus and his harlequin-costumed cohorts traverse the fantastical city. Guided in their quest by The Orloj in human form, the group is tasked with finding statues that relay both human virtues and flaws and convey life lessons that, once learned, will allow the group to reach Hradcany Castle, where they’ll receive credentials for wizard apprenticeships.
The narrative is filled with imaginative characters, including the tiny “Thumbpee” appearing as Erasmus’ intermittent conscience. It moves at a steady, engaging pace, making creative use of the city backdrop. Admirably, the diverse characters learn the importance of working together.
In a minor drawback, some of the life lessons the youngsters learn can feel repetitious.
Those familiar with the earlier, adult-oriented books by Erasmus Cromwell-Smith, might be surprised that this is YA. Yet even older readers will find The Orloj of Prague an imaginative rendering—one that should appeal to anyone who enjoys following a creative quest of young wannabe wizards, intertwined with core life lessons.
Also available as an ebook and audio book.