It’s 1858, and there are two queens on the throne. Victoria reigns over London, the biggest city the world has ever known. But London has a secret shadow city, called Donlon, where another queen, the Green Witch, rules her own domain – time.
London is in turmoil. The Thames is at the height of the Great Stink; a blazing comet is searing the sky; technology is moving so fast it seems otherworldly; and the city is exploding with more people than it can hold. Darwin is about to publish his theory of evolution and humanity’s very place in the world is in question.
On top of all this, people are disappearing into thin air. If they return, it is with empty eyes and torn souls, never to be the same again.
Ava, a fourteen-year-old Londoner, feels trapped by the limited life of a young Victorian woman and by her watchmaking apprenticeship with her father. Her predictable world is turned upside down when she discovers that the body in her mother’s grave is not her mother, but a stranger.
When Ava goes in search of her real mother and her true identity, she is thrust into the dark world of Donlon and must fight a battle to save those she loves and the future of both worlds . . .
I’ve been looking forward to When Days Tilt since I first saw it announced, and it was well worth the wait! This is Karen Ginnane’s debut novel, and the first in her Time Catcher series. It’s historical fiction fantasy for teens (it is one of those books that sort of sits at the crossroads between MG and YA) and it grabbed me right from the prologue.
Ava is a brilliant protagonist, and I found her such a delight to adventure with. I loved how clever and bold and assertive she was. I really enjoyed her relationship with her father – the way she cringes at him at times but still her love for him comes through. I also thought her friendship with Jack was brilliantly written – the way the are sort of drawn to protect eachother and build a friendship from there.
The world building in When Days Tilt was great. I thought the parallel city of Donlon was well described, and I felt like we got a good feel for some of the people and places in the city. I loved the magic system that Ginnane has set up – the manipulation of time as part of the magic isn’t something I’ve seen done quite like this, which helped it feel fresh to me. I also though the focus on clockmakers made it kind of steampunky, which I loved.
In terms of setting, I also thought Victorian London was a perfect place for this story to unfold. – The way Ava’s desire to have and be more than is expected of women of the time really worked for me.
Overall I thought this was a fantastic read. It is feministy and packed with adventure and magic, providing a really strong foundation for the next book to build on, while still being satisfying on its own. I loved spending time in the world(s) of Ava and Jack and can’t wait to see what is in store for them in the next installment!
When Days Tilt by Karen Ginnane
Out now from Penguin Books Australia
Source: I received a free copy from Penguin for review (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Young Adult/Middle Grade historical fantasy fiction
Format: Paperback, 336 pages