Jack, Annie and Davey have to go back in time to save their parents who’ve been arrested as alchemists and spies in Prague when their mum and dad set off to find more about the family tree.
There they get separated, have to cope with new and extreme circumstances, and then find each other again as well as meeting a few magical creatures along the way before trying to get home.
I have to say up front that I am not the target audience for The Hundred-Towered City as it’s more a children’s title. Not that I read it any differently but I’m seeing it from a fantasy fan’s rather than children’s point of view.
Anyway, Kilworth mixes a bit of sci-fi (time travel) with a lot of fantasy with his re-imagined version of Prague, unless Prague of 1903 actually did have a very large Golem roaming about.
The thing that mostly sticks out is the strength of characterisation. The personality of each of the children is different. How they act, react and talk is individual. Their personalities comes to the fore when the novel kicks up a gear when they are separated from each other and put to work in three different but insightful ways, solider, a maid and a puppet.
And one of its strengths especially for younger teenagers is showing them that children didn’t always have it so easy especially if they were orphans as Davey and co. find out.
I did find the first section of the book a bit slow going as even though a lot happens it didn’t raise my emotions. The children cope perhaps a little too well, are a bit too accepting of their new circumstances and seem to easily change from being protected modern day children to being in a foreign land speaking fluent German. And perhaps Kilworth makes it a bit too convenient for them to find help.
But when they get split up the pace, the emotions, and the story get going. Jack perhaps transforms the most as he has the hardest journey, but each of them get a time on the stage even Davey who’s the youngest gets his five minutes. The story though is between Jack and Annie and what actions they take.
Kilworth’s writing subtly mixes with myth with reality so everything seems normal even Gollum and he give a history and morality lesson that isn’t too obvious but a nice touch in a children’s story. He also manages to throw in Arthur C. Clark and Kafka for good measure.
It’s all about showing not telling.
Kilworth’s time-machine and how time travel was achieved is a great invention and I’m going see if I can do something similar in my car next time I have a clear road.