Do you like fast-paced adventure? I’ve read few middle grade novels more exciting than Nick of Time.
It’s 1939 and Nick McIver is twelve years old. The Nazis threaten England and the rest of Europe like a black cloud, and U-boats traverse the English Channel on which Nick has spent his whole life as the son of a lighthouse keeper. Authentic historical details such as these give this book a solid foundation within history, one fraught with peril, but then a whole world of fantasy opens up as well. For on one of his many local sailing exploits, Nick finds a time machine, and suddenly his sailing exploits aren’t so local. Suddenly, 1939 is only home base.
Enter Billy Blood, a nineteenth century pirate who holds a second time machine and visits many points in history, kidnapping children for ransom. Enter also the nineteenth century naval hero, Lord Nelson; a twentieth century British millionaire; a British advanced weapons expert and an aging warship gunner and you have a recipe for adrenaline.
The violence in this book does get a little intense. It’s not terribly graphic, but it includes an up-close-and-personal naval battle and a Nazi officer who doesn’t hesitate to shoot his underlings or blow them out a submarine’s torpedo tube. Yet it wasn’t so excessive that I would withhold it from my ten-year-old. In fact, I’d be comfortable placing a 9+ age rating on it. It’s a great boy read with plenty of scrapes and fast action and, well, there are some casualties. It does have a smattering of mild profanities and more than a smattering of typos. But I kind of liked these typos because they originate from a mainstream publishing house. That means the door has been left wide open for Indies like myself to surpass the industry, mwa-ha-ha. (Okay, I borrowed the evil laugh from Erik, who also lent me the book. Thanks Erik!)
What about sweetness? I’m always a sucker for sugar, whether it’s in a cookie or in a book, and the character of Kate, Nick’s little sister, fills this role nicely. She’s adorable, and the bond between the siblings rings true. They squabble like alley cats, but when danger looms, Nick does everything he can to protect her. Kate, however, plays her own brave part. She is unrealistically advanced for a six-year-old, but her innocence and charm make a nice contrast to the more brutal scenes.
Overall, I enjoyed this one very much. It reminded me of the classic boy adventures like Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island, and some fantastic illustrations add to that old-fashioned illusion. But I can’t think of a single modern boy I know who wouldn’t get caught up in Nick’s tale and wish he could trade places with him just for a while.
Note: Similar to The Chronicles of Nathaniel Childe, by Timothy Davis.
Nick of Time, by Ted Bell, 2008, Book Review