Time isn’t quite what we’re used to at Sweetclover Hall in Cornwall. It pulls people to it, through centuries, leaving them puzzled and afraid and, in the case of our three young heroes, caught in a puzzle that may cost them their lives to solve. Jana is from our future – New York city in 2141. Something made her jump from a skyscraper, knowing that time could be rewritten, but what made her take such a terrifying step? Dora is from our past – Cornwall in 1640. She is a serving girl, newly arrived at Sweetclover Hall. But when she sees the apparition of a distressed burnt woman, Dora reaches out to help her and she is cast into the Hall of the present. Who is this woman and what does she want? Kaz is from our present day, drawn to the Hall for shelter and warmth but soon caught up in the dangerous secrets of its laboratories and cells but needed by Jana and Dora to make leaps between the years. Watching them, supposedly helping them, but really just chasing them, is Lord Sweetclover himself, a man in possession of answers, not to mention a past.
TimeBomb is the first in a series and so don’t expect many answers. You can, however, expect more than enough mysteries, time paradoxes, anachronisms, unidentifiable people from unidentifiable times, lots of menacing armed thugs in black, characters who may be good but are probably bad – all of this and more. Jana, Kaz and Dora don’t have much of a clue what’s going on, not do they know that much about each other, and so we can be assured that we’re as much in the dark as they are. One thing we all learn is not to trust anyone.
The heart of the novel takes place in Dora’s time and place, Sweetclover Hall back in 1640. Now, though, Dora sees it all so differently, having experienced futuristic wonders such as chocolate, electricity and packaged sandwiches. But time has played an evil trick on Dora. Her day or two away was four years to her poor parents and this introduces a genuinely moving and quite tragic element to the novel. Dora’s father in particular is such a memorable figure, brave and loving, dealing with a young daughter who all too quickly has learned the future’s way of ordering her father around.
Dora and the others are on the hunt for the mysterious Quil, a woman who they believe is responsible for the distortion of time and for affecting their own place within it. The clues to her presence are everywhere, not least in the 17th-century kitchen’s fridge. But it’s not long before the townspeople are caught up in the conflict and it is then that Dora shows the stuff she’s made of.
TimeBomb is a rocket of a timeslip adventure, designed to appeal to adults young and old and it most certainly succeeds. Andrews never talks down to his readers and he pulls no punches. Gore and violence are mixed liberally with the thrills and screams and I just did not want to put it down. This novel very much belongs to Dora – and Quil – but I was especially intrigued by Jana who continues to remain enigmatic. I am so keen to find out more about her and I’m sure as time and pages and books pass I’ll want to know more about Kaz, too.
As a huge fan of TimeRiders, Alex Scarrow’s series which draws to an end this year, I have been looking for another quality timeslip series to follow and TimeBomb definitely looks to be that series. Well-written, funny, sad and exciting, with a whole load of mysteries and paradoxes to puzzle over, it will appeal to all ages. Long may it continue.