Imagine if you lost your parents – not just in place, but in time.
Jake Djones’ mum and dad have gone missing and they could be anywhere in the world – at any time in history. Because the Djones family have an astonishing secret, which for years they’ve managed to keep - even from each other. They belong to the HISTORY KEEPERS: a secret society which travels through the centuries to prevent evil enemies from meddling with History itself.
In the quest to find his parents, Jake is whisked from 21st Century London to 19th century France, the headquarters of the mysterious History Keepers, where he discovers the truth about his family's disappearance - and the diabolical Prince Zeldt's plan to destroy the world as we know it . . .
Confession time: When I received this book from the generous people at Doubleday I had already decided that I didn't want to like it. Ouch! Yes, I know that sounds like a pretty unprofessional thing for a reviewer to decide but I had a very good reason for it. Honest. You see, I already love another series of books where teen heroes go back in time to prevent history from being meddled with in the form of Alex Scarrow's super-brilliant TimeRiders. Why on earth would I want another? And surely if, let's say, another one came along, then it would pale into insignificance when compared with Scarrow's work? So it wouldn't be like I was being unfaithful or anything would it? Oh dear. Not only did I read The History Keepers, but I also totally loved it as well. However, TimeRiders you need not worry as this book has not taken your place as the object of my time-travel story affection, but it has just joined you and I am afraid that you are just going to have to share!
OK... juvenile attempts at humour aside, I know you really want to know whether this book is worth reading. Definitely. Although time-travel plays a central part in the plot, it is first and foremost a cracking adventure story that is perfect for the 9+ age group. You want your swashes buckled? Then this is the story for you. Prefer the pace of the stories you read to be on the fast side? Then jump on this bob-sleigh of a story and enjoy the ride! You may not get fully fleshed out, three-dimensional characters, or a realistic dissection of the complexities of time-travel (Paradox? What paradox?), but if you want a fun, fun, fun adventure story with no pretensions then get your order in now for the 1st September released date of this first book in The History Keepers series, subtitled The Storm Begins.
The book introduces us to Jake Djones, who at the beginning finds himself the subject of what seems to be a kidnap attempt, but which he soon discovers is a somewhat bumbling attempt to keep him safe from, at this point in the story, an unnamed foe or foes. Jake very soon discovers that his parents have been keeping secrets from him, the sort of secrets that can be pretty life-changing. Like the fact that in the past they were agents for The History Keepers, a secret agency of time-police, and that instead of being at a kitchen-fitters' trade event in Birmingham they have gone missing somewhere in history, most likely sixteenth century Venice. Of course, Jake takes all of this in his stride, and even decides to accompany a couple of teen History Keeper agents on their rescue mission by hiding on their time-travel vehicle of choice, in this case a sixteenth century Genoese merchant galley. Yes, suspension of disbelief is certainly the order of the day, but so is pretty much any other time travel story.
I intimated earlier that the characters are not exactly three dimensional, but that does not mean that they are not fun to read. Aside from Jake, there is also the kick-ass Topaz St Honore (Jake's parents are not the only ones who try to keep secrets from Jakes); the totally self-obsessed Nathan Wylder (possibly the greatest agent if the history of The History Keepers... well, he thinks he is); and Charlie Chieverley, technical whizz, but certainly not your typical, reserved geek-type. I think readers in the 9+ age group will love reading about this foursome of young heroes, and most will be able to identify with at least one of them in some small way. As the book progresses we slowly begin to find out a little more about what makes each of them tick, but I have a feeling that the sequel will bring more revelations as to their various backgrounds.
The plot itself is at times a little predictable, but not to the point that young readers will be put off as there are also enough surprise twists and bombshell reveals to not only keep them turning the pages of this volume, but also eagerly waiting for the sequel, whenever that may be. Going back to my original comments about the TimeRiders series, this book certainly compares pretty favourably, although it is aimed at a slightly younger audience; it certainly does not contain the levels of violence that occasionally appear in that other series. On the press release it states that author Damian Dibben has worked extensively as a screenwriter, and The History Keepers does feel very cinematic. It comes as little surprise to me I then discovered that Working Title have optioned the book, but as we know the journey between optioning and a final film at the cinema is often a long one. Every publisher and film maker is desperately looking for the new Harry Potter, but this probably isn't it. However, could it be the next Percy Jackson? Maybe.