Publisher: Mauve Square Publishing
Genre: Juvenile fiction, adventure, fantasy, mythology, history
Size: 236 pages
Age group: 10-13
Jemima and Joe Lancelot, along with their talking cat Max, and their best friend Charlie, are off on another adventure. The twins live with their Uncle Richard since their parents’ mysterious disappearance several months earlier. Only the children and Max know what really happened—Mr. and Mrs. Lancelot, with the aid of a mysterious book, have become trapped in the past. Using the book and a special key, the kids are desperately dipping in and out of time to track down the adults. Oddly enough, when Uncle Richard gives them their (eleventh) birthday presents—an Xbox game of the Trojan War for Joe and a special charm bracelet for Jemima as well as a book on Troy—it is more than enough of a hint as to where they are going next. The kids, Charlie, and Max end up in the middle of the Trojan War. They do their best to stay alive, find out more about where the twins’ parents were last seen, and do all they can to turn the tide of events in a war that has been raging for ten years.
I love this series and have become hooked on it since book one, The Shadow of Atlantis. Max is really coming into his own, and the adventures would not be the same without him. This time, Max has a significant role to play, although his efforts to help end in disaster. However, in one of the funniest scenes of the book, he gets the chance to make amends although it’s not quite the heroic role he anticipated. Dressed as Hermes, the winged messenger of the gods, Max tries to intervene to alter the fortunes of war. Alas, one cannot change the past, and those who must perish cannot be saved. Once again, author Wendy Leighton-Porter skilfully weaves a world of mythology, fantasy, and fact, and immerses her young protagonists slap bang in the middle of Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad.
The adventure is a turning point for the kids and Max as they face the reality of brutal war, death, and destruction when Troy falls through treachery. The author conveys a subtle message about violence that will help kids decide what is and is not acceptable. Other life lessons come when they realise they cannot turn the tide of history. For once, they are mere small pawns in a gigantic battle involving no less than the gods of Olympus, who prove to be as weak and fickle as the humans whose lives they dominate. The kids learn about human qualities, some good, some bad: King Priam’s pride and stubbornness; Hector’s bravery, Agamemnon’s cruelty, Cassandra’s compassion and self-sacrifice. I found a change in the series at this point, as the book embraces deeper, darker, and more mature themes. The author does a wonderful job of not sugar coating significant events and life’s realities.
However, all is not lost, history is fulfilled, and the kids return with a fragment of information on the adults’ whereabouts. Cassandra’s gift of prophecy has given them a glimmer of hope. Back home, Uncle Richard—hugely impressed by their avid interest in history and archaeology—provides them with some reassuring facts about the final fate of several characters. In addition, some interesting changes emerge on the domestic front. Uncle Richard and Charlie’s mum Ellen are going out for a drink! Could this be something significant? We’ll have to wait and see what transpires in the next adventure…
A helpful map, pronunciation guide, a list of characters, and the author’s note placing Homer, Troy, history, and Greek mythology in context will add to young readers’ enjoyment. If you are a parent wanting to get your kids entranced with reading, start them on this series. It’s a great learning curve, with fun, action, adventure, and a unique story line.
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Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.