The Hundred-towered City by Garry Kilworth

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The Hundred-towered City by Garry Kilworth

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Buy The Hundred-towered City by Garry Kilworth at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: An entertaining adventure through time, with just a dash of alchemy and magic, this book is perfect for any budding sci-fi fan.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Atom
ISBN: 978-1905654055

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Jack Kettle's dad is a wacky inventor, who often makes extraordinary, but mostly valueless inventions. Until he invents a time machine attached to a Matchless motorcycle. Jack's mum, who has been researching the family tree for months, is eager to travel back to Prague in 1903 to track down some illusive family members. Together they head back in time, but Prague is a suspicious place, full of secret societies and alchemists, and the Kettles find themselves arrested under suspicion of being spies.

When Blazek, one of their distant relatives, returns to modern day England with the time machine, Jack and his siblings, Annie and Davey, travel back to Prague to rescue them. But crossing time opens their minds to the supernatural, and Prague is full of creatures of myth and magic, some friendly some not.

When Jack, Annie and Davey get separated, and the key to the time machine stolen, they have to make their own way in Prague. Jack is sent to join the army, Annie to be a scullery maid, and Davey to work in a puppet theatre. Jack wants nothing more than to get his family back, to rescue his parents and to get home, and together with his new army friends, and the mythical Golem, he sets out to do just that.

Once you get past the almost laughable ease with which Roger Kettle invents the time machine, this is a great adventure story. Mystical and mysterious Prague is an enchanting setting, and the troubled time makes for some interesting conflict.

Time travel is a tricky thing to do well, but Kilworth has lots of fun with it, and so the reader has fun with him. The differences between the times are highlighted with great humour (Annie is asked if she's ever seen a carrot before) and the idea that travelling through time opens the mind to the supernatural world is an ingenious one. It's a shame that this avenue of the story isn't explored further – I would have liked to have seen more of it.

Kilworth doesn't burden the reader with lots of theories about time paradoxes. He raises the issue when Jack saves the life of his great great grandfather, but Roger Kettle surmising that time travel is just weird leaves the reader to make their own theories and decisions about what such a paradox means. While some might find this annoying, and perhaps a bit of a cop out, filling the end of the book with complex explanations would have detracted from it's light-hearted feel, and probably made it far too complicated for its intended audience. It's nice sometimes to have authors let you make your own mind up.

On the downside, I did think: well that's a bit convenient a few times while reading this book. Both the Kettle parents happen to know Morse code, and so can communicate in secret, and all the children can speak fluent German, not to mention the creation of the time machine itself, but somehow it just doesn't matter that much. Kilworth's enchanting writing and the interesting cast of characters sweep you along before you have time to worry about it.

An entertaining adventure through time, with just a dash of alchemy and magic, this book is perfect for any budding sci-fi fan.

My thanks to the publishers for sending Bookbag a copy.

For those who like stories about time travel, try The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost. Those interested in the supernatural might enjoy Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy.

Buy The Hundred-towered City by Garry Kilworth at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hundred-towered City by Garry Kilworth at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Hundred-towered City by Garry Kilworth at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hundred-towered City by Garry Kilworth at Amazon.com.

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