Title: When Days Tilt (Time Catchers #1)
Author: Karen Ginnane
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fictionm
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: 2nd July 2021
Synopsis: Magic, mystery, and darkness – a gripping fantasy adventure for lovers of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. In this page-turning debut, one girl must figure out why she is the key to two worlds, before time itself falls under the control of the powerful and the greedy.
A historical fantasy adventure for teens set between Victorian London and a darker parallel city.
It’s 1858, and there are two queens on the throne. Victoria reigns over London, the biggest city the world has ever known. But London has a secret shadow city, called Donlon, where another queen, the Green Witch, rules her own domain – time.
London is in turmoil. The Thames is at the height of the Great Stink; a blazing comet is searing the sky; technology is moving so fast it seems otherworldly; and the city is exploding with more people than it can hold. Darwin is about to publish his theory of evolution and humanity’s very place in the world is in question. On top of all this, people are disappearing into thin air. If they return, it is with empty eyes and torn souls, never to be the same again. Ava, a fourteen-year-old Londoner, feels trapped by the limited life of a young Victorian woman and by her watchmaking apprenticeship with her father. Her predictable world is turned upside down when she discovers that the body in her mother’s grave is not her mother, but a stranger.
When Ava goes in search of her real mother and her true identity, she is thrust into the dark world of Donlon and must fight a battle to save those she loves and the future of both worlds . . .
Ava has grown up in London without her mother, learning about the clock trade from her father. She’s spent ten years without a mother, yet a chance encounter with Jack in Donlon and an excursion to Greenwich, things begin to change for Ava, and secrets that her father has kept start to come out, and Ava will begin to learn of her real identity, and her links to Donlon and Jack. She’s lived in a world of predictability yet once this is shaken, Ava will find that time and place is turned on its head – and her life may not be what she thought it was before things changed.
This book came on my radar after listening to Alison Tait talk about it on one of her podcasts – I think the Your Kid’s Next Read with Megan Daley, and I ordered it as soon as I could. It’s one of those books filled with mystery and magic, where half the world is one that we know, and the other is new and mysterious, akin to the worlds cut by Will and Lyra in His Dark Materials. A mysterious mother and past captures Ava and pulls her and her father into a desperate race to discover the truth – which is a staple of any good mystery or fantasy book, and takes readers on a thrilling chase through Donlon, a darker, opposite version of London, and the revelations come that come out set up nicely for the books that are to come – I believe I heard this is going to be a trilogy, and it will be exciting to see how Ava and Jack protect London and Donlon.
Nothing in this book is mentioned by mistake – it all has its purpose and will be referenced and embellished on later in the book and the sequel, which has been perfectly set up for. It allows space for the reader to imagine what is going to happen, yet also lets them know that what they know will neatly tie in with what is to come. This also evokes a sense of history, and the possibility of what life was like then, and the roles women played in society, where the expectations were often straddled with women’s rights and careers – as a girl, Ava is not meant to follow in her father’s footsteps – which society loves to point out. Yet I loved this plucky character, who found ways to fit in with society whilst still making sure she forges her own path. And Ava’s path will be determined by the fate of London and Donlon.
This is one of those books that gets under your skin, and captures the imagination. It seeps into everything, and allows us to transport ourselves to a different time and place, where we can imagine a different life, even though we may feel trapped by the constraints of the time period, Ava’s character reassures us that we do not need to simply accept these fates. We can forge our own path and our own destiny even when others have different ideas for us.
What a book this was! I read half of it in one sitting, and wanted to find out what happened. I loved what it did with stepping into other worlds, and the interlinking of every character – as they each have their place in the story. I hope the second book comes out soon, as I am keen to see what happens next. This is a great book for readers aged ten and older, and I can see it becoming popular.