I read a lot. I read every book my Spring Oaks Book Club picks. I read every book someone gives me for Christmas. I even joined the Green-Jell-O Book Club on Goodreads because I’m always searching for a new book – and I liked the name of the group.
I am an omnivorous reader – I read non-fiction, historical fiction, crime fiction, the classics, but very rarely fantasy. It might be an age thing. I’m not exactly a fantasy-loving young adult, so writers who target this group sometimes miss me by a mile unless it’s a topic I’m interested in and I like the cover.
“The Time Key” by Melanie Bateman is about time travel and the cover illustration by the author is perfect. Those are the two reasons I chose to read this debut novel declared a “clean fantasy” book. I liked “Ranger’s Apprentice” and “Fablehaven” with the same “clean fantasy” tag, so I thought it was time to try another one from the list.
The first chapter is fantastic! Part One (and every part) has a beautiful illustration by the author, who is also a talented artist. It begins: “There couldn’t be a better time to begin Stanley Becker’s story than at the moment he stood on the frozen stone wall of Kingston Bridge overlooking the river Thames, breathing in the winter night and pressing the icy metal barrel of a pistol to his jaw.” Wow. I wish I’d written a long sentence that good. Writing for newspapers has made it impossible to resurrect that skill.
At one point in the book, Stanley travels back to the summer of 1868 and has a conversation with his 7-year-old self after revealing he has come from the future. Don’t we all wish we could give our younger selves some advice and guidance? His younger self believes his claim is impossible and causes the adult Stanley to chuckle when the boy says, “If you came from the future wouldn’t you need a time machine?” Stanley doesn’t need a time machine; he has something much better.
The setting, in old and then newer London, is a great choice. There is a large cast of characters both human and mystical with tiny vaelie Lena being one of the most enchanting. There are also plenty of shadowy villains to keep the plot interesting.
Stanley travels back and forth in his own story seeking answers from his past and hoping to change an inevitable future of sorrow and despair. In his trips to the future, he also hopes to find answers and help. If you know the future, can you change your past?
Stanley acquired a time key which allowed him to travel through time. This is the gift we all wish we had gotten for Christmas this year. Since we didn’t, we can experience time travel by reading “The Time Key” without even leaving our chair by the fire, which is a much less scary way to travel.
“The Time Key” is available from books & things (publisher Sweetwater Books), Barnes & Noble, Amazon and at Melaniebatemen.com.