I’m a big fan of this fun time-travel series, and I’m pleased to say that the third book is just as great!
Book: A Christmas in Time by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Rachael Dean
Publication date: 6th May 2021
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Nosy Crow Books. All opinions my own.
I had so much fun with A Christmas in Time and A Chase in Time (reviews here and here), which saw Alex and Ruby Pilgrim step through their aunt’s antique mirror into the same house, but in the Victorian and Edwardian eras respectively. In their third adventure, things are a bit different – this time, they’re not the only travellers! The siblings are stuck in Georgian England with a French noblewoman, her son, and his English governess, who have fled from the guillotine through the magic mirror. And it turns out Miss Crouchman, the governess, is the witch who created the mirror, though she has no idea why it’s brought them to Applecott House. Alex and Ruby won’t be able to return to their time until they solve whatever issue they’ve been brought there to handle – but what do they need to do this time?
As with previous books, these are fantastic books for young history lovers. They are chock-full of detail, but it’s woven into the story really nicely, so as Alex and Ruby learn about the clothes they’re expected to wear and the things they’re expected to do, so does the reader. I would have been mad for these as a kid! As an adult with an appreciation for the Georgian era, though, I had a great time spotting all the elements that had been incorporated, and I really like how the image of the era that they give is one that is much more focused on the day-to-day than the political or ‘important’. It’s a great way to fire the imagination.
Plot-wise this book is on the gentler side, closer to the cosiness of Christmas than the hectic capers of Chase, but there’s still plenty of excitement, particularly in the new information revealed around how the magic works. I personally didn’t love the climax, which (without spoiling it) felt a little too reliant on the fantasy elements, rather than the problem solving that the children usually do, but it’s a minor niggle and doesn’t spoil the story as a whole. I just really enjoy the lower stakes parts of the book that focus on the friendships the siblings build, which are very well done here.
This is another great instalment in a fun series, and I’m really looking forward to book four, which is out this winter. I definitely recommend this for kids who enjoy history, and although this is pitched as 7-9, I think older readers will enjoy it too. Four out of five cats!