Hello Humans! Welcome to today’s book review. I believe I’ve mentioned this before but Caroline Lawrence’s The Roman Mysteries series was one of the series that really got me into reading as a child – after I was bought the first book as a present for a flight to Rome. They were also a big part of the reason I ended up studying Archaeology and Ancient History at university and I was lucky enough to be able to tell Caroline that when I met her a few years ago. So when I saw that there was a new book coming I knew I had to read it, Picadilly Press were kind enough to send me a copy of The Time Travel Diaries and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you all now.
From the million-copy-selling author of The Roman Mysteries comes a nail-biting time-travel adventure in Roman London – where past meets present.
Billionaire Solomon Daisy is obsessed with the skeleton of a blue-eyed girl from Roman London. He has managed to invent a Time Machine so that he can go and find her, but it’s estimated that for each hour spent in the past, the time traveller’s life will be shortened so Solomon recruits a potential child time traveller: Alex Papas, a twelve-year-old boy who knows a smattering of Greek and Latin.
Alex’s mission is to go back to Londinium through a portal in London’s Mithraeum and find out all he can about the blue-eyed girl.
There are just three rules:
1. Naked you go and naked you must return.
2. Drink, don’t eat.
3. As little interaction as possible.
But Time Travel is no picnic – and Roman London is far more dangerous than anyone could have known.
Now you all know that I don’t read a lot of middle grade, I’ve got no problem with it as a genre but it usually isn’t my thing. So I can’t really comment on the level of literacy you would need to read this or how it compares to other books in this age range. What I can talk about is my own experience reading it.
What I always love about Caroline Lawrence’s books is how much research she puts into them. I believe it’s in Trimalchio’s Feast that she talks about stories being inspired by ancient artefacts and wanting to fit a story around them, to people a world that largely consists of bones and pottery. I think that comes through really strongly in this book, it’s evident that Lawrence knows her stuff about Roman London during this time period. You learn a lot from reading this book and a lot of the facts are embedded in the text, you might even learn a smattering of Latin. I loved all the different details Lawrence brought into the story – it’s great for giving a snapshot of what Roman London might have been like.
I found the romance a little odd, the girl that a character seems to fall for is shown on the page being actively awful towards her slave girl Plectra. I’m a little conflicted about that because on the one hand, it would be wrong to misrepresent how awful slavery was in the ancient world, but then to make that character also well liked by a modern main character felt strange. In The Roman Mysteries, there was more space to explore those issues across several books so perhaps this is more of a conversation starter among young readers than anything else – it just didn’t quite sit right with me while I was reading it.
I thought that the plot was good, the idea of having to track someone down in an ancient city was a great idea, making it have something of a murderless murder mystery. There’s a lot squeezed into very few pages, and I think this would benefit from being read in chunks as opposed to all in one go as I did. But overall I think it has a lot of potential.
An ideal gift for any young reader who wants to learn more about the ancient world, particularly if they want to see that world through modern eyes. Had I read this when I was younger I have no doubt that my desire to study archaeology would have been even greater – if that is even possible.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The Time Travel Diaries is available now!
What say you? Will you be reading The Time Travel Diaries? What were the books that inspired you when you were younger? Let me know in the comments below!