DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

The Golden Hour
Maiya Williams
Amulet/ / 272 pages / $16.95
ISBN: 0810948230

Life used to be "normal" for thirteen-year old Rowan and his eleven-year-old sister, Nina, but when their mother died their lives flip-flopped to grief-counseling, psychiatrists and a father with both business and drinking problems. Nina, a musical prodigy, has not only stopped playing the piano, she's stopped speaking. Now, a year later, they are sent to Owatannauk, Maine, a small resort town, to visit with two great-aunts for a month. Except, they quickly discover, Owattannauk is not your ordinary small town and the "aunts" aren't blood relations at all, and the weird gets going pretty quickly. Nina recovers her power of speech (and music), they soon meet twins Xavier and Xanthe, and they all discover a hotel with time-traveling "alleviators." Nina disappears and the remaining three assume (for good reason) she's off on a trip that would land her smack-dab in the middle of the French Revolution. They quickly read up on the period and are supplied the proper clothing (Owatannauk's economy is based on time travel) and roles to play. Xanthe is an artist, "a good occupation for a woman..." and her skin color will make her "seem exciting and exotic." Since "there weren't that many black people in Revolutionary France," Xavier is stuck with the role of freed slave. Rowan is a noble. Then they are off on the alleviators to save Nina. The book grabbed me for good when the owner of the hotel hands the kids a list of warnings, rules and regulations ("5. No food or drink are allowed on the alleviators...
7. Please do not try to change the events of History. It will affect your ability to return....
9. No sexual relations with people from the past....") and asks them to sign a waiver (with fine print that must be read with a microscope).
Questions about rule #8? "Here's a brochure..."
The nagging questions that plague in such scenarios (language? micro-translators) are answered well enough for the fun to continue. The author's quick wit and the book's furiously fast pace will definitely win young readers and they won't mind that some of the historic part is almost as much of a stretch as alleviators. (A handy author's note separates fact from fiction.) Owattanauk and the eccentric "aunts" are serial material, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this potential franchise. Don't look for the book to crossover to adults, though, Williams's core message about finding oneself and dealing with life (perhaps assisted by licensed professionals) will ring true for juveniles, but is a little too shallow for adult consumption.

--review originally appeared in DarkEcho # 36

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Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.