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Tuesday 18 September 2012

Review: The History Keepers: Circus Maximus by Damian Dibben


The History Keepers are in terrible danger once more. Stocks of Atomium - the crucial ingredient which allows them to travel through time - are perilously low, and the agents must embark on a risky mission to find more. And now a new and even more evil member of the Zeldt family is planning a hideous take-over of the Ancient world, and they are forced to travel further back into history than ever before in order to save the day. Well, all of the days actually.

When I posted by review of The Storm Begins, the first book in Damian Dibben's action time-travel series, I had no option but to mention a certain other popular series for young people in this genre. Readers of this blog will know that I am a huge TimeRiders fan, but back in that review I confidently proclaimed that based on the fun I had reading The Storm Begins there was definitely room for another time-travel adventure featuring teen protagonists. The sequel, Circus Maximus, has only confirmed these initial feelings.

The Storm Begins was typical of many first-in-series books in that a certain portion of the story had to be given over to introducing the main characters, and the nature of the History Keepers group. With this already done, Damian Dibben is able to hit the ground running with Circus Maximus, with the first of the book's many action scenes starting in pretty much the very first chapter. From the conclusion of this scene onwards the pace of the plot is superfast, and is just the kind of story that could suck in even the most reluctant of readers.

One of my (very slight) criticisms of the first book was that despite being great fun to read the characters seemed a little two-dimensional. With this second book Dibben spends more time adding flesh to the likes of Jake Djones, Nathan Wylder and Charlie Chieverley, whilst also bringing some of his secondary characters out of the background and into the action. In addition, he also introduces a brand new villain - if you thought Prince Zeldt was nasty just wait until you 'meet' Agata Zeldt, "the most evil woman in history". Damian Dibben does OTT villains very well, and they really are the people you love to hate. (By the way, my only criticism of this book is the author's need to repeat this statement about Agata more tomes than is necessary, along with a few other pieces of information. We really only need to read them once). 

The two History Keepers books so far suggest that this could become a hugely popular series for the 9+ age group, especially if the planned movie is made of the series. These books are aimed at a slightly younger audience than the more complex TimeRiders series, their emphasis being much more on fun and adventure. The ending of Circus Maximus is not exactly a cliffhanger, but it most definitely sets things up for further adventures for Jake and his friends, and definitely left me wanting to read more.

My thanks go to the lovely people at Doubleday for sending me a copy to review.

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