This is a truly wonderful action-packed and heartfelt timeslip adventure that gripped me from the start, and kept me entranced throughout as it took me from modern England back to 1946 Central India.
The story opens in Central India, 1946 with 12-year-old John Lassiter feeling the wrongness of his killing of a tiger during a hunt which leaves him with a limp. This is a feeling of regret that will remain with him throughout his life. The story then moves forward to modern-day England where an elderly John is being visited by his great-niece, Elsie who is staying with him for a week. She soon finds a tiger skin rug in his house, and John tells her of its origins. There is an air of sadness about John as he tells Elsie that his best friend, Mandeep, had given him a rare seed on his last day in India: the flower that catches time.
When visiting John’s wonderful greenhouse, Elsie witnesses the magical flower bloom and is transported back in time to 1946 Central India where she meets a young John on the morning of which he is going to hunt the tiger.
Elsie introduces herself as Kelsie Corvette, the strong and courageous heroine of the adventure she has been writing and rather different from the real Elsie who is often overlooked by others. She is determined to stop John making a mistake he will regret for the rest of his life, but will she be able to overcome his stubbornness, and his single-minded focus on tracking and killing the tiger?
John is not very welcoming of Elsie, and only begrudgingly accepts her presence. Has she been sent back in time to save John, the tiger or both? As the children hunt the tiger, will the hunted become the hunter? The tiger’s viewpoint is powerfully portrayed showing its instinctual need for survival, its desire to return to its territory and its rage that it has been banished from its Kingdom by men.
When John’s determination to follow the tiger gets him into serious trouble, he is rescued by his friend, Mandeep who is an animal lover, willing to put himself at risk to save animals from hunters. When Mandeep is confronted by a furious hunter, the children find themselves at the heart of a powerful deception … will the children be able reveal the terrible and heart-breaking truth and so save those in danger?
I loved the rich description of the Indian landscape with its animals and plants and the portrayal of both the danger and the awe-inspiring beauty in nature. I also enjoyed the authenticity of the character voices, especially that of a young John whose set mindset is challenged by Elsie and by what he witnesses. This story also gives an insight into British colonisation of India and the social inequalities and unrest of the time.
This story has a very powerful conservation message woven throughout especially with regard to the decline of the tiger population due to being hunted for medicine, habitat loss and especially trophy hunting.
I loved how the threads of this story came together at the end of the book as they wove through history, showing what happened to the 1946 participants as a result of Elsie’s time travel.
This is a powerful and heartfelt story which captured me completely and transported me into a remarkable adventure in a richly described Indian landscape with its majestic creatures.
Thank you to the Publisher and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.