Review: Elsetime

Published by Everything With Words
Cover & Illustrations: Holly Ovenden
Published on 17th September 2020

Elsetime is an exhilarating time-slip story which completely captivated me as it took me on a fascinating journey where past, present and future meet in ‘elsetime’, a time where intrigue, danger and revelations swirl amidst friendships, courage and hope. 

It is 1864 and young Mudlark, Needle is digging for objects from the River Notion which he uses to create treasures for his mother to sell on her market stall.  Needle has an incredible talent:  he can learn the history of an item when he holds it at the moment it was lost.  He is also a synesthete who can hear emotions in colour which makes him incredibly perceptive. 

Needle is helped by a very special friend, a crow called Magpie named as she is a master of finding and stealing treasures.   I love how they work together, and how they clearly adore each other, with Magpie influencing many of the paths that Needle takes.

One such path leads him into a future Inthington in 1928 as he searches for his missing father, but instead finds Gloria Bobbin, a 12-year-old orphan and jeweller’s apprentice who knows Magpie under a different name, Fusspot. 

The children soon discover that their destiny is linked to a terrible disaster that threatens the town, where 14 lives will be lost as a result of a flood – unless the children can avert it.  So begins their courageous battle to change the course of history and to save lives, a battle which leads them into grave danger and towards incredible revelations.  The inexorable nature of the flood is brilliantly evocative:  the tension is palpable as the flood rages and the children struggle, in a race against time, to have their warning heeded.  Will their caution fall on deaf ears, or will help come from a rather intriguing source?

Needle and Glory are incredibly sympathetic characters who both captured my heart.  Glory has lost both her mother and father to fever and is living with her protective 16-year-old sister, Dee-Dee:  theirs is a wonderfully warm relationship.  In order to stave off eviction, both girls have to work, despite the fact that Glory is just twelve years old. 

Pretending to be sixteen, Glory finds employment as a jeweller’s apprentice with the vile Mrs Quick, owner of the Frippery and Fandangle Emporium who treats her cruelly. Glory is a gutsy, impulsive and courageous young girl with an admirable inner strength. She has a wooden hand which makes it difficult for her to bring to life the wonderful creations she designs, but she does not let this stop her ambition to own her own Emporium.

Needle is a gentle, kind-hearted and sensitive boy who does not have a great deal of self-belief, but he shows great fortitude and resilience when faced with difficult and dangerous situations.  Who brings these two wonderful children together? 

Only THE most amazing crow called Magpie.  Both Needle and Glory clearly adore her, and the feeling is mutual!  She is there for them when they need her most – and gives them nudges in the direction she needs them to move in!  Magpie has secrets of her own which completely astounded me – brilliant!

I loved the heart-warming, empathetic friendship between Needle and Glory.    They find strength in each other and work brilliantly as a team, supporting and encouraging each other, overcoming any moments of doubt and mistrust. 

The illustrations by Holly Ovenden are absolutely exquisite.  I loved the use of the vivid black of Magpie contrasted with the muted shadow-like effect of the rest of the image which made me think of the fluidity of time, which complements this story perfectly.  

I must say that I loved the clever use of needlework references in both the character and place names such as Eyelet Bridge, Broidery Quay, River Notion and, of course, Needle Luckett and Gloria Bobbin.  The author has embroidered a rich tapestry with an intriguing and intricate plot, filled with excitement, peril and the most incredible twists and revelations.  Inspired by the real-life Great Flood of London in 1928, this is a stunningly spectacular read with a beautifully heart-warming ending.

Thank you so much to Mikka at Everything With Words for providing me with a Review Copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

3 thoughts on “Review: Elsetime

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