CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 7 . . . . October 14, 2011
Clarinet Reid (a jokey name from her musical parents) is the kind of girl who thinks museums and history are yawntastic. Clare and her best girlfriend Al are Canadian teens spending the summer in London, chaperoned by Clare’s archaeologist aunt, Maggie. To spice things up, Al’s nerdy cousin, little Milo, has morphed into a “scorching-hot” guy. Clare is in disgrace after a party gone wrong, and she foresees a long boring summer in Merrie Olde England. Meanwhile, brainy Al is actually excited about hanging out at the British Museum and enthused about seeing the new display of preserved peat bodies and Celtic gold. Clare finds that touching these Celtic artefacts sends her into the past where she befriends Princess Comorra and her Druid protector, Connal. With the help of Al and Milo, Clare hopes to somehow change the past in which her new/old friends were slaughtered by the Roman army. She has a lot of obstacles to dodge, not least being the evil Stuart Morholt, an old friend of her aunt, who kidnaps the girls in an attempt to uncover a secret horde of priceless Celtic gold.
Clare is a very fun and lively character. She is supposed to be lazy, not dumb, but sometimes she is written as a bit more of an airhead than necessary. Al is the brains behind the operation, and she’s an intriguing sidekick, but she is never really developed or rounded out in a satisfying way. As this is projected as a trilogy, I hope Al gets to come into her own a bit more in the next book. Milo is great as the hot smartypants, a whiz with computers and lot of other stuff that goes over Clare’s head. Their romance is witty, sweet and subtle and doesn’t take over too much of the book. The characters in the past are all well realized, as is Clare’s confusing attraction to the Druid who is expected to sacrifice himself to become a ghost warrior for his queen.
The dialogue is the real gem of the book, and the banter between all the characters sizzles. The dialogue even works well in the scenes set in Celtic Britain and does not seem either stilted or unnaturally modern. Livingston truly has an ear and flair for making these characters come alive through their dialogue, and this makes the book a great read. The descriptive and explanatory prose is also good, and even the scenes which exist essentially to explain history never seem too much like class reading, though they sometimes come close. A lot of readers will find that they do learn something from the book but won’t find that they are hit over the head with facts.
Kris Rothstein is a children’s book agent and reviewer in Vancouver, BC.
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