Review by Gary Couzens
Jack, Annie and Davey are the children of Roger, who has invented a time machine. Briefly, time runs in a spiral and travel backwards and forwards is achieved by jumping tracks, much like a stylus can do on a vinyl record. All well and good, but when the children receive word that their parents are trapped in Prague in 1903, they travel back there to find them…
Garry Kilworth is a writer for adults as well as children, with some seventy books published since the mid-1970s. The Hundred-Towered City is fast-paced and certainly competent, but it feels a little lightweight and slightly old-fashioned. (I’m of similar age to the parents in this novel, and no-one I know says ‘Chin up’.) There’s something facile about Kilworth’s writing here, not least in the large amount of handwaving he uses to set up his premise. It’s also convenient that all three children are fluent German speakers. This novel may involve time travel, but this is definitely fantasy rather than science fiction.
In the search for their parents – who are imprisoned as suspected spies – the children are separated. Jack is co-opted into the army, while Annie rises from the position of a lowly scullery maid to become the companion to a countess. The streets of Prague teem with fantastical creatures, and the Golem plays a significant part. Historical figures such as Franz Kafka.make appearances. There’s also a literary joke which will go over the head of this novel’s intended audience, in that the army has a particularly dutiful soldier called Svejk.
There’s plenty of incident in this longish novel, but it may well not leave much of an impression. The Back to the Future-style ending seems to be the set-up for a sequel. The Hundred-Towered City is suitable for ages ten or eleven upwards: there’s no sex or difficult subject matter and the only language issue is one ‘bugger’ late on.