Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.
On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.
Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.
When I first learned of TimeBomb, I thought it sounded really interesting, which meant I was stoked to have won an ARC via Twitter. Described as a YA trilogy featuring time travel and Roundheads and Cavaliers, it sounded like it should be a tremendous amount of fun and that is exactly what it was. TimeBomb was a page turner of a story, with a cool premise and fabulous characters.
The books kicks off with our protagonists all in their own times and being pulled to our present. I loved how Andrews set this up, letting us meet the characters and discover a bit about them and almost immediately throwing them into turmoil by jumping them through time and giving at least Dora and Jana flashes of themselves through space and time. What made the set up even more interesting was the fact that this initial event and consequently much of the action in the story is tied to Sweetclover Hall. There is a significance to the house that is only slowly revealed. While Kaz and Dora’s link to the place were clear, Jana’s connection to the manor is not as evident. This led me to wondering whether this will be revealed in a later book or whether it’s not relevant and their being chosen or having this power is not connected to the Hall at all.
The narrative is structured around three main characters, though we get several additional viewpoints, though none of these take up many pages. Andrews succeeds in making each of the three characters – Kaz, Jana, and Dora – interesting and sympathetic. They each are such distinct characters and have such different stories. Dora is the one whose background is developed most expansively, largely because much of the narrative is set in her ‘home’ timeline and so we learn not just her history, but also get to know her family. While we do get some history for Kaz, most notably the reasons for why he ran away from home, Jana remains mostly mystery The reader learns about her early childhood and the reason for her cavalier attitude to death, but we don’t learn much about her later family life.
The main antagonist of the book, Quil, was the most excellent sort of villain. The kind that doesn’t actually seem villainous at first glance. In Quil’s case that is because she comes across as eminently reasonable and because so much of what she’ll do, is still in the future and since our trio aren’t supposed to learn about what is going to happen so as not to ultimately change things, the reader never learns what it is exactly that she does, except that it will be bad. The fact that they have to accept that this is the truth because someone tells them it will be, is the one thing that truly bugged me about the story; it felt a bit Terminator-ish to me. We only see what she does in this book, which granted is bad enough, but not on the scale of evil she’s portrayed as. It only gets really bad once she is defied.
In this first instalment in the series there is a bit of handwavium as to technical and time travelling details, which hopefully we’ll learn more about in the other two books. However, I didn’t mind the handwaving at all, because the story was just that exciting. Despite a large swathe of the story taking place in the seventeenth century – with the accompanying muskets, swords, and horses – the narrative feels high-octane with a lot of action. At first the trio is only able to react and it is interesting to see how they struggle to get their feet under them and be able to act. They are aided or opposed in this, not just by the aforementioned Quil, but also by a fantastic set of secondary characters in the form of Lord Sweetclover, the mysterious Steve, Dora’s father Thomas, and the royalist soldier Richard. They each felt real and rounded, even if in some cases they didn’t have that much page time.
TimeBomb was tremendous fun and made for surprisingly addictive reading: I finished the book in one sitting. I can’t wait for book two and to discover the meaning of the flashes they had during their first jump be realised. Thus far there was only the one, but they promise a lot of exciting action to come and most importantly I want to learn who Quil actually is. With TimeBomb Andrews has delivered a riveting series opener. If you enjoy fast-paced, action-driven time travel stories, this book is for you, whatever your age.