Twelve-year-old Jack Morrow is used to life being complicated. His mother died five years ago, and his father is now headed for prison. But then Jack discovers he's a Yard Boy - someone with the ability to travel through Sorrowlines, the channels that connect every gravestone with the date of the person's death - and he is quickly pulled into an adventure beyond anything he could have possibly imagined.
Finding himself in 1940s war-torn London, with his then-teenage grandfather, Davey, Jack soon realises that his arrival in the past has not gone unnoticed. The evil forces of a secret world are determined to find him - and to find out all he knows.
As Jack struggles to survive, he comes ever closer to unlocking the dark secret at the heart of his family, and to - just maybe - changing his own destiny . . .
Like many main characters in books written for this age, 13-year-old Jack’s lot in life is not a happy one. His mother was killed when he was younger, and now his father is heading for a lengthy spell behind bars. Just before his father ‘goes away’, on a visit to his mother’s grave, Jack places his hand longingly on his mother’s headstone and is pretty much pulled into it. The next thing he knows, he is still in the graveyard but the headstone, and his father who was only seconds ago sitting on a nearby bench, have disappeared. Strange? You bet, but things get even stranger as Jack’s grandfather appears and informs him:
a) He is a Yard Boy, able to travel through time using the Sorrowlines;
b) Jack’s life is in danger;
c) Jack must travel back to 1940 and track down the younger version of his grandfather, where all will be explained.
Like most 13-year-olds would, Jack has more than a little trouble believing what he perceives to be a smelly old homeless guy, but then the Dustmen appear, and before he knows it Jack is fleeing for his life through the graveyard, hunting for a headstone marked 1940 that will take him back in time. So begins a wonderful and exciting time travel adventure featuring people from an alternate world, knights that simply will not die, Boagymen who can travel between the smallest rooms/cupboards in houses and transport you pretty much anywhere you want to go (at a cost), vicious creatures called Weavers. And of course, a story like this would not be complete without a particularly nasty villain, in this case the power hungry and ruthless Rouland.
I love time travel stories, and in recent years we have been treated to the brilliant TimeRiders series by Alex Scarrow, and Damien Dibben’s exciting action adventure series, The History Keepers. Some might therefore question the need for another time travel series for readers of this age but author Niel Bushnell proves that an original concept can inject freshness into the genre, and with books like Sorrowline there continues to be room for even more time travel stories for young readers.
Niel Bushnell never patronises his readers by dumbing down the plot - as with some of the best time travel stories this book has a fairly complicated plot that keeps readers on their toes, looking for clues to events in the future as the past part of the story continues to develop. The question of whether changing events in the past can alter the present/future naturally raises its head and Niel Bushnell deals with this in a way that should keep all of his readers happy.
Jack is just one of a handful of great (and believable) characters in Sorrowlines, as he makes various allies and enemies as he travels back in time. However, unlike many books of this ilk it was very refreshing to see that Jack simply does not know who he can and can't trust. Usually we see a main character make close friends very quickly with someone of a similar age, and they become the close companion in the main character's adventure. In Sorrowlines it seems that just about every character has their own agenda, and could possibly betray Jack at the drop of a hat, whether it be for financial or some other gain, or simply through sheer cowardice. Thus, it isn't only Jack who is plagued with confusion and uncertainty, as the reader also gets to share these emotions as the plot twists and turns.
Sorrowlines is an exciting adventure story that will have 10+ aged readers gripped from the beginning. It is also somewhat poignant in places as Jack's adventures give him a greater insight into the events from his own childhood, and he searches desperately for a way to change his past.
My thanks go to Niel Bushnell for sending me a copy to read.