I’m a sucker for time-travel stories, and when I picked this one up in the bookstore, it seemed right up my alley. Two British children from our time from very different backgrounds, who have just met, accidentally travel back to 1763 England. The trip involves a research lab with an anti-gravity project whose machine somehow carries them back, but they arrive injured and disoriented. A villainous rogue called The Tar Man, who sees their uncanny arrival, steals the machine, and thereby the one chance they might have to return. Luckily another, much friendlier, young man named Gideon Seymour also is there, and he takes the children under his wing and helps them find their way in a world familiar yet strange to them.
The writing of this book is engaging and intelligent. The characters of the modern children and their families are good, but where the author, a first-timer I think, really shines is in her depiction of the 1763 characters, customs, countryside, and eventually the city of London. Obviously much research was done, but it never seems labored or obvious, except perhaps in a few cases where we meet famous people from history and literature. The drama of Gideon and the children trying to get back the machine, beset by The Tar Man’s henchmen and associates is exciting and gripping. And a separate storyline follows the parents and police in our own time as they try to figure out what happened, aided by clues the children leave for them, either accidentally or on purpose. An unusual and welcome idea for a time-travel story; mostly such things are sidestepped by having the characters return only moments after they left.
Oh, and what a great cover! I’m sure it was one reason I picked the book up in the first place, but I didn’t notice until I got it home that the art is by James Jean, cover artist for the FABLES comics, among many others, and one of my favorite cover artists. This one shows his perennial subtlety and talent.
As usual these days, this is the first book of a trilogy, and it ends with some elements of a cliffhanger, but others resolved. I’ll certainly get the others as soon as they’re available. If you like time travel stories, or just good adventures, give this one a try.