CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 28. . . .March 26, 2010
The Young City is a fast paced urban fantasy novel that follows two Toronto teenagers, Rosemary Watson and Peter McAllister, who fall through a basement floor and into a storm drain only to find they have travelled back in time to Toronto in 1884. This is the third book in a series of fantasy adventures about Rosemary and Peter, but the book also works well as a stand-alone novel.
The novel begins with Rosemary and Peter helping Rosemary's brother, Theo, move into a basement apartment near the University of Toronto. While they puzzle over a hole in the concrete foundation, the floor starts to crack apart, and Peter and Rosemary are dropped into a river underneath downtown Toronto. When they finally work their way out of the storm sewer, the pair find that they have travelled back in time to 1884, the year the last of the river was built over by the expanding city. Though Peter and Rosemary are initially disoriented by their circumstances, they eventually make friends and begin to fit in 1884, that is until they discover that they are not the only ones who are aware of the time travel portals that seem to be associated with the soon to be buried river.
The action starts almost immediately, and Peter and Rosemary's final struggle to survive and get back to modern Toronto generates enough suspense to keep the story going. While not laugh-out-loud hilarious, there are several subtle anachronistic jokes that will keep the reader smiling, and the dialogue is snappy and well-written. Though the fast pace of the novel means that character development is somewhat lacking, Rosemary especially grows as a character, becoming more self-assured and resourceful by the novel's end. While time-travel novels are certainly not unique, the doomed river that creates ever moving portals to travel between Victorian and modern Toronto makes for an intriguing concept. The existence of this buried river under downtown Toronto is based in fact, and the way the river winds its way through the plot of the novel almost makes it another character. A short author's note at the end of the novel provides some additional historical information regarding Toronto's slow encroachment on the many streams and wetlands that once existed where the city now stands.
The strength of this novel lies in the unique time-travel concept and the fast-paced, suspenseful plot. The Young City is a solid novel that will appeal to readers of fantasy and science fiction. The accurate historical depiction of Victorian Toronto is also likely to win over fans of historical fiction. The Young City is a recommended purchase for public and school libraries.
Tara Stieglitz is a Master of Library and Information Studies student at the University of British Columbia.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.