Author: Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 5 of 5
Like many other children in 1939, Vivian Smith is on her way to the countryside to stay with her cousin while the bombing is going on in London. Only, she never quite makes it to meet her cousin. At the train station in the country, she is abducted by two boys who snatch her away (through a wall in the train station, no less) into what might as well be another world: Time City, a place set apart from time and ordained to govern over it. Only, things are going wrong, and the two boys, Jonathan and Sam, heard rumor that the Lady of the City–Vivian Smith–was going to be at that train station in 1939, so the went to get her. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that they have the wrong Vivian Smith. But they can’t just take our Vivian back to her own time, not now that she’s seen the City. So Jonathan, who thinks himself very clever, thinks up a plan to pass her off as a cousin of his, visiting from history (i.e., every time that isn’t Time City). Which is all a bit much, but Vivian’s quick to adapt. Unfortunately, they’re still left with that small, nagging problem of all Time coming to pieces around them. . . .
I love stories about time travel, and I absolutely adore Diana Wynne Jones’s writing, so I suppose I was pretty much fated to enjoy A Tale of Time City. It’s wonderful! And I don’t just mean that in the sense of it’s being “great” or “amazing”–it’s full of all sorts of wonders that surprise the reader at every turn. If I could do so and return safely home, I would love to get to tour Time City myself. I’d love to meet Vivian, too. She’s the perfect balance of a credible but remarkably spunky girl. Not to mention inordinately adaptable! She would stand out more but for the fact that the whole book is just full of lively, interesting people. And, as is so typical with Jones’s books, the plot is intriguing from beginning to end. The pacing is excellent, drawing the reader along comfortably but with enough ease to enjoy the setting and the characters as you go. And there are certainly surprises at the end, but ones that just seem to fit perfectly once you encounter them, like they were inevitably but you just never realized it. I would give A Tale of Time City high recommendations, especially to those who love a good fantasy and to those who are intrigued by the idea of time itself–because it’s just fascinating, isn’t it?