Australian boy Felix and his older stepsister Zoe have been on holiday in France, in the city of Arles. In the last hour or so before departure, Felix finds a Roman stylus, with a message in a bottle giving instructions for time travel, writing the Latin word “Ave” to travel into the past and “Vale” to return. Of course, he can’t resist and they find themselves in Roman Arles, or Arelate, in the time of Emperor Constantine. There they accidentally pick up a Roman girl, Petronia, whom they show around briefly before taking her back to her own time, where they may be stuck…
If you have read the novel The Boy Who Stepped Through Time by the same author this will be familiar, but you don’t need to have read it to enjoy this, though there is a guest appearance by a character from that novel.
The novel is a lot of fun, with culture clash mixed into the adventure. Petronia’s attitude to modern times is hilarious(though she is impressed by public playgrounds). When the three young people return to Roman times the culture clash is even more over-the-top, with food, medicine and customs bizarre to the two modern children, but quite normal to their hostess. Like the previous novel, it is well researched with the help of the author’s sister, an expert in this era. The author has also done the very good internal artwork.
They take a trip on a barge along the river Rhone to reach Petronia’s family, and from here things start going wrong for Felix, but he can’t tell Zoe.
The adventure does bring them closer, though.
I enjoy time-slip stories and this one is an excellent example of its type.
Perry, hero of The Boy Who Stepped Through Time, has to live in this era by himself and work out how to get home while Felix and Zoe have each other and know what to do - the problem is a very different one.
But anyone who enjoyed the first novel in this universe will certainly enjoy this one.
I recommend it for ages 9-12, late primary school to early secondary.
Available in both ebook and print, along with the rest of her fiction, at all good web sites in Australia, or order from your local bookshop. If you live outside Australia you might have to find out when it’s available in your country. Right now, it’s only available here, sorry! But you can get her other books, including The Boy Who Stepped Through Time, on overseas sites, including Amazon, both print and Kindle.
Thank you, Allen and Unwin, for sending me a copy of this novel!