time travel

Review: The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie, Kirsty Murray

This review is part of the Discover Aussie Fantasy feature, running during July on The Oaken Bookcase. You can find details of the feature and enter the giveaway on the Aussie Fantasy page!

The Four Seasons of Lucy MckenzieThe Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Kirsty Murray (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

Lucy McKenzie can walk through walls. Sent to stay with her aunt Big in a hidden valley, Lucy discovers the old house is full of mysteries. One hot night, she hears a voice calling from inside a painting on the dining-room wall…

On the other side of the painting, Lucy meets three children. Together they race horses through the bush, battle fires and floods, and make friendships that will last a lifetime. But who are April, Tom and Jimmy Tiger, and what magic has drawn Lucy to them?


Series: Stand alone
Genre: Middle grade Urban Fantasy (Time travel!)
Published: Allen & Unwin, 24 July 2013
Pages: 199
My copy: the publisher for review (thanks!)

Paper copies: Book Depository (Aug 1) •  Booktopia (Aug 1) • Bookworld
E-copies:   Not available yet..


The room was full of moon shadows and dancing light. But it was the wall around the window that Lucy couldn’t stop staring at, the one with the painting of Spring. It was as bright as a sunny day, and the tiny yellow flowers that covered the fields were moving, as if a breeze had blown through the painting and set all the petals dancing.

When her sister is injured overseas, Lucy McKenzie is sent to stay with her Aunty Big in her old country house west of Sydney for a while. At first, Lucy hates the remote location and lonely old house of Avendale, until one night, she finds she is able to walk through one of the beautiful paintings that cover the walls in the dining room and finds herself in a different Avendale, with a strangely familiar young girl called April. Over the next few nights, Lucy is able to move through different paintings into the different seasons of that other Avendale, experiencing bushfires, floods and the advent of war, and discovering amazing things about her own family past and present.

Throughout the whole story, Lucy develops a love for Avendale and the beautiful valley surrounding it. The images of the bushland around the house, the river and of Pulpit Rock, up in the hills, are very evocative and it reminds me of childhood camping holidays spent exploring bushland (although we didn’t have any horses to ride!).

This story is like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe for Aussie kids. The idea of being able to walk into a wall-sized painting is a brilliant one – I remember being about eight years old myself, wishing I could walk through a picture of a forest covering one wall of a house we stayed in for a short time! I just loved that the old Avendale house was still standing all that time later – it makes me wonder what stood on the site of my own house some eighty years ago – possibly an old house like Avendale!

Children of all ages (including grown-up children) will love this story.

About the Author

Kirsty MurrayKirsty Murray writes books for children and teenagers. She was born in Melbourne where she first discovered the power of a good story. Kirsty now spends most of her time reading, writing and hanging out in libraries all around the world.

Kirsty’s works includes ten novels as well as many other books for young people. Her novels have won and been shortlisted for many awards and published internationally. Kirsty writes for young people because they are a universal audience. Not everyone lives a long life but every human being was once a child and the child inside us never disappears.

(Bio and photo from kirstymurray.com)

Review: Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness

Shadow of NightShadow of Night (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Deborah Harkness (website)

Rating: ★★★½☆

Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library,she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers…


Series: All Souls Trilogy #2
Genre: Historical paranormal romance
Published: Viking, July 2012
Pages: 584
My copy: the publisher via Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

Please note: This is my review for the second book in this series, and so contains spoilers for the first, A Discovery of Witches. You may wish to read my review for that book instead!


The story of Shadow of Night begins as soon as A Discovery of Witches ended. It has been quite a while since I read the first book and there’s not much in the way of re-setting the scene, so it took a while to get back into Diana and Matthew’s story.

Diana Bishop is a scholar and historian, and is also from a long line of witches. Her magic is different to that of other witches, however – spellbound by her parents as a child before their murder, she has only recently released her power but cannot control it. On top of this dangerous inability to control her powers, she has angered the ruling Congregation by falling in love with a vampire, Matthew Clairmont – a relationship which is forbidden under the covenant binding witches, vampires and demons.

Fearing they are in danger, Diana and Matthew use Diana’s timewalking ability to travel back to 1590, where they are fortunate enough to encounter members of Matthew’s household and family who accept them as time travellers and help them to fit into society. They must find a witch willing to help Diana discover and control her powers, as well as try to locate the mysterious manuscript “Ashmole 782”, which must be kept from falling into the wrong hands.

As with A Discovery of Witches, there was soooo much detail. The detail in the first book was overwhelming at times, but in Shadow of Night, it actually works really well. Diana is discovering the strange new world of the 1590s and even though she has studied that period for a long time, actually being there totally overwhelms her. The detail with which this new world is described is amazing, and the characters of the School of Night, the gathering of witches in London and the individuals like Queen Elizabeth herself are colourful and make the story very enjoyable to read. We don’t quite get to meet Will Shakespeare but there are plenty of other personalities to mingle with.

It took me a long time to read this book for some reason, and I suspect it may be the level of detail that made it a slow read – having to take in every scene and determine what was going on. I wanted so much to love Shadow of Night, and I did love the portrayal of Elizabethan England and Prague, but there were a few things about the story itself that really bothered me and made me enjoy the story less than it probably deserves.

I still love Matthew, even with his melodramatics and brooding rages – such a romantic! I still rather dislike Diana as having a shallow emotional range. There are some quite heart-wrenching events through this story, and she comes through them with a brief mention of being upset but recovers very quickly and gets on with things. I know, some people are really like that, but I thought the story could have been a lot more emotional, both in happy and tragic times.

Apart from the problems I had with Diana’s character there were a few things in the story itself that I found slightly annoyed me. Diana and Matthew are told not to try to change anything in the past, as it could seriously affect the future, but as soon as they arrive they start trying to save witches under trial and affecting other decisions and events. Matthew also seems sure that Diana is keeping secrets from him, for no good reason that I could see. I was slightly confused with the whole time travel mechanics – the Matthew of the past just mysteriously ceased to exist for a year while the “future” Matthew is there, and then after they leave he just pops back into place into a world where quite a lot has happened. It felt like a slightly clumsy way of dealing with being in a time he was in previously.

The story itself moves at quite a pedestrian pace, at least until close to the end when everything comes to a head and it was difficult to put the book down. I just wasn’t as gripped by the story as I wanted to be, especially since I was enjoying reading about life in London and Prague as well as the magic that Diana was learning about.

If you enjoyed A Discovery of Witches, you’ll also enjoy this next instalment in the series. Just be ready for a truckload of details!

Warnings: Sexual situations, torture and some violence

The All Souls Trilogy

Viking cover Shadow of Night Book 3 to be released later in 2013



What did others think of Shadow of Night?

  • “Anybody else ready to hop a plane to Oxford? I really want to see if there are any more Matthews prowling between the library stacks.” – Sue @ Bookish Temptations
  • “(The All Souls Trilogy) has elements that will appeal to a large audience; history, witchcraft, vampires, daemons, time-travel and romance.” – The Caffienated Book Reviewer
  • “Shadow of Night is a stunning follow-up to ‘Discovery’ – an intelligent and enchanting romp through a world that is inherently supernatural and alien, and yet recognisably factual in its construction of authentic historical figures operating in a tangibly real Tudor setting.” – Lancashire Evening Post

Review: The River of No Return, Bee Ridgway

The River of No Return, Bee RidgwayThe River of No Return (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Bee Ridgway (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

1812: On a lonely battlefield in Spain, Lord Nicholas Falcott, Marquess of Blackdown, is about to die… But, the next moment, he inexplicably jumps forward in time, nearly two hundred years – very much alive. Taken under the wing of a mysterious organisation, The Guild, he receives everything he could ever need under the following conditions:

He can’t go back.

He can’t go home.

He must tell no one.

Accepting his fate, Nicholas begins a life of luxury as a twenty-first century New York socialite, living happily thus for the next ten years. But, when an exquisite wax sealed envelope brings a summons from the Alderwoman of The Guild, Nicholas is forced to confront his nineteenth century past.


Series: The River of No Return #1
Genre: Historical science fiction (time travel!) and romance
Published: Penguin, April 23, 2013
Pages: 464
My copy: the publisher via Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)


The River of No Return is a period romantic drama with a modern sci-fi twist – with the glamour of Regency London life combined with time travellers, anything is possible!

Nicholas Falcott, Marquess of Blackdown, is about to be run down and killed in battle in Spain, 1812. Instead of death, he is met with a strange rushing sensation and wakes up in 2003 – almost two hundred years in the future. He is looked after by the mysterious organisation known as the Guild, taught how to live in modern times over one intensive year and released in the United States as Nick Davenant, with the assurance that there is no going back. He settles himself into a comfortable life in modern New York City, and for ten years he enjoys all that the modern era has to offer. That is, until he receives a summons from the Guild and is charged with a special task. As it turns out, it is possible to go back in time as well as forward – one only has to draw on powerful emotions. He learns about the Ofan – a rival organisation that the Guild is concerned may disrupt the flow of Time itself.

Meanwhile, back in 1815, Nick’s young neighbour Julia Percy is dealing with the death of her grandfather. Her cousin Eamon has come to take over the manor and he is convinced that Julia’s grandfather was hiding a secret artefact that allowed him to control time. Julia is sure that it was just her grandfather’s natural ability that allowed him, and now her as well, to freeze and manipulate time. But how can she escape from Eamon without damaging her reputation, and where would she go?

There are quite a few intertwined stories here that span multiple time periods, but they tie together very well. The “science” behind time travel is rather magical – no-one is quite sure how it’s done, just that some people have a natural ability to do it. At one point the Guild members say that you can’t go back to a time you have already been in – that must make it difficult for time travellers to keep track of a list of when they’ve visited where! The concept and the details of the time travel itself feels quite realistic though – the fact that the air in Devon in 1815 would have been much fresher and cleaner, but the buildings of London in 2013 were sparkling clean compared to their 19th century counterparts.

The romance in this story is very swoon-worthy. It feels slightly instant at first, but the two of them have known each other since they were children, they just hadn’t seen each other for many years. Each encounter has that delightful kind of romance, you know, the type that sends shivers up your spine? Just great!

The pacing is a little slow at times – a mixture of learning about Nick’s ability to time travel, and mysterious goings in with the Guild and the Ofan, but there are action scenes to keep it all flowing. The fact that the story involves people who have lived in modern times allows Bee Ridgway to include random modern pop-culture references and mannerisms, often rather out-of-place but quite funny. I’m not sure that Nick would have learned all these things so well as to slip up in his “home time”, since he was only in modern New York for ten years.

I loved reading The River of No Return and I’m glad this isn’t the end of the story – the ending has been left open for plenty more to come. A fantastic debut from Bee Ridgway that both period drama enthusiasts and sci-fi readers should enjoy!

Warnings: Sexual situations, some mild violence

What did others think of The River of No Return?

  • “In case you haven’t guessed, I highly recommend it! Is there a recommendation higher than highly?” – Popcorn Reads
  • “The whole time travel concept Bee Ridgway introduces us to is fascinating, but I still have so many unanswered questions. I really hope there’ll be a sequel!” – Between the Pages
  • “The characters are likeable and the dialogue sparkling and witty in a rom-com- period-drama kind of way.” – Natasha at Tea, Daydreams and Fairytales

Review: Return of the Ancients, Greig Beck

This post is part of the Discover Australian Fantasy feature, running all July on The Oaken Bookcase. Please visit the Aussie Fantasy page to see the other reviews and articles and also to enter the giveaway – you could win a copy of Return of the Ancients!

Title: Return of the Ancients (Goodreads)

Author:  Greig Beck (@GreigBeck)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Return of the Ancients — the Valkeryn Chronicles Book 1, is the first of a three part series and tells the story of a future world of great beauty and great horrors, and of two races who have fought a war for an eternity. 

Arnold ‘Arn’ Singer an average teenager living in Illinois is thrown forward into this world and finds he is the last human alive. The land is populated with mysterious and bloodthirsty creatures — some want him dead, while others see him as their only hope for survival — a return of one of the mysterious and all powerful ‘Ancients.’

Arn has to survive in a hostile world and save his new friends, and also try and unravel the mystery of the disappearance of the human race. While the two mighty kingdoms prepare for a final war, Arn must make a fateful decision. It is an epic tale of love, betrayal and war in a world both familiar and terrifying.


Series: The Valkeryn Chronicles #1 of 3
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy for teens
Published: Momentum Books, February 2012

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Momentum Books


Arnold Singer, or “Arn” to his friends, is thrown forward in time after an accident during a school trip to a government scientific facility. In this strange future world, humans have been replaced by the honourable Wolfen, an evolved species of dog. The Wolfen lands are under attack from the evil Panterran, an evolved race of cats. There are plenty of other horrors in this world, but Arn’s quest to find out what happened to the human race and get home again is put on hold. War is coming.

I must admit that I’ve been judging this book by its cover. After only scanning the blurb, I thought it looked like an adult dystopian war story. Turns out I was quite wrong, although there is war involved. Let that be a lesson to me!

Arn doesn’t seem in any particular hurry to get home again, but is happy to take up warrior training with the Wolfen and fight alongside them against the Panterran invaders. The “prophecy” of the future links up with what happened in Arn’s proper time rather well – I often wonder about the actual events behind ancient legends, and Greig has taken this a step further by showing us events in both time periods.

The only thing that I found a little off-putting about this story was the romance between Arn and a Wolfen girl (no spoilers…). Why would she be attracted to him so quickly? He looks like a fur-less freak to most of the Wolfen! I know, love conquers all and all that, but… they are different species. I just found it slightly uncomfortable.

That aside, I really did enjoy reading this story and loved the way each race had its rulers, its ambitious underlings and its honourable warriors. I’ll look forward to the next in the series.

Return of the Ancients is a fast-paced adventure with plenty of twists and turns. I’d recommend this story for those who love reading about adventure in strange lands, preparations for war and time travel, especially younger readers.

About the Author

Greig Beck is an Australian author residing in Sydney with his wife, son and oversized black German Shepherd named Jess.

He grew up spending his days surfing at Bondi Beach before entering a career in Information technology which took him around the world. After completing an MBA, he was appointed both an Australasian director of a multinational software company, and tasked with setting up the USA arm of the organisation.

Today, he’s still involved in IT, but spends most of his time writing… with plenty left over for surfing.

More information about Greig and his works can be found at his website, www.greigbeck.com.


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