This beautifully written book is more than just a time-slip adventure; it is also a meditation on the nature of time and memory. An angel on the grandfather clock is holding a Bible with the motto "Time no Longer", which Tom and Hatty learn is from the Book of Revelations. Re-reading Tom's Midnight Garden has made me reflect on other books with time-slip and time travel themes. I have already written about Charlotte Sometimes, a book that I find profoundly disquieting. The History Keepers: The Storm Begins by Damien Dibben is a much more straightforward adventure story, and highly enjoyable it is.
This book has had favourable comparisons with Harry Potter, since it has a young hero and an action packed plot. For me this is overstating it a bit; it is certainly engrossing and a page turner, but it lacks the world building of Harry Potter. I couldn't imagine the History Keeper's HQ at Mont St Michel, the ship or the rogue agent's castle as well as I can Hogwarts. However, maybe this will come with later books. I would say that The Storm Begins is likely to appeal to fans of Charlie Higson's Young James Bond, Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider or Mark Walden's H.I.V.E. series.
I knew Mary Hoffman from her wonderful Amazing Grace picture books, rightly staples of UK classrooms, but was unaware of her books for older readers, until I spotted the cover of Stravaganza: City of Masks in a charity shop.
The first in a series partly set in present day Islington and partly in an alternate version of renaissance Italy (Talia), the book opens with fifteen-year-old Lucien, who has cancer. His father buys him a beautiful notebook to write in as his throat is too sore to speak. His father tells him about Venice, where the notebook originated. Lucien falls asleep holding the notebook, and wakes up in Bellezza, an alternate version of Vanice. He discovers that he is a Stravagante, a time traveller, who can travel through the possession of a talisman: his notebook.