Elsetime, by Eve McDonnell, for Timeslip Tuesday

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Elsetime, by Eve McDonnell (June 2020, Everything With Words), is a must read for time travel fans (and a very good read for middle grade fantasy fans, mg historical fiction fans, and so on….). Though it has, to the best of my knowledge, not been published yet here in the US, it’s well worth getting your hands on (says one who did so!). I do have a slight caveat though–it’s a book that will be most enjoyed by those able to wrap their minds tightly around the sort of twists and turns that so often happen with time travel, and if, like me, you have a tendency to gallop through good stories, you might suddenly find yourself a bit confused…I think I will enjoy it more when I reread it in two or three years!

In London in 1928, 12 year old Glory has lied about here age to get a job in a jewelry shop. She designs beautiful things, but the fact that one of her hands is wooden prosthetic means she can’t always bring her creations to fruition. The rather nasty woman she works for is not sympathetic, paying Glory a pittance while profiting off her designs.

In 1864, Needle is desperately trying to keep himself and his mother fed, following in the footsteps of his father who mysteriously disappeared by scrounging in the mud of the Thames for bits and pieces to turn into saleable ornaments. Like his father, Nettle has a magical gift–he can feel the stories of the things he finds. When he finds some metal fragments from 1928, with the names of victims of a horrible flood, he travels in time to that year, determined to give a warning.

There he meets Glory, and their stories intersect. The clock is ticking, and Glory herself might be one of those who will drown…but the two kids are up against villainous characters, and the problems that come with time travel. Fortunately, a very clever crow named Magpie, Nettle’s helper from his own time, is a fellow time-traveler, and gives them just the assistance they need to add to their own determination and cleverness. And though Nettle, in the end, returns to his own time, he’s changed both his life and Glory’s for the better, in a lovely way (and not just by saving Glory’s life…).

It’s a truly engrossing story of friendship and hardship and creativity, given great tension by the threat of the devastating flood to come (a real event). McDonnell paints vivid pictures and brings her characters beautifully to life. And though the twist at the end didn’t quite work for me (see caveat above), because I though one of the characters was perfectly capable of being more helpful earlier on, it was still one I enjoyed lots. Since I love to read about making things, I especially loved the crafting parts of the story, of which there were a generous plenty!

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