The Time Travelers is Book One in The Gideon Trilogy (2006) (Released in the UK as Gideon the Cutpurse) by Linda Buckley-Archer. Gideon is both a gentleman and a cutpurse in the England of 1763 and has a healthy fear of an evil villain called the Tar Man and his employer, Lord Luxon. In his efforts to stay out of the Tar Man’s grasp, Gideon Seymour is hiding in the bushes where he is able to watch the sudden appearance from nowhere of an incredible machine with two children in strange dress first attached to it, then seemingly repelled from it with an immense force which leaves them lying unconscious in the grass. Then, he watches while the Tar Man secures the machine onto the back of his cart before turning his attention to searching and robbing the two children.
Peter and Kate had only met that morning. Peter was supposed to be on a birthday fun trip with his father, who had backed out at the last minute (again) because he had an important meeting. Instead, his au pair, Margrit, took him with her to visit her friends, the Dyer family, on their farm in Derbyshire. Dr. Dyer works at a lab tucked away in the countryside that is funded by NASA where he and his colleagues are working on various projects, including an anti-gravity machine. His oldest daughter, Kate, wants her father to demonstrate the machine which she calls a “party trick”. Things go wrong, however, when her dog, Molly, gets frightened, takes off, and the children leave the 21st century in a burst of energy, landing them in a similar countryside in a totally different time: 1763, the time of King George III, Dr. Samuel Johnson, and Dr. Erasmus Darwin. They aren’t exactly dressed to blend in, and the Tar Man takes off after his horse bolts with their means to return to the 21st century bouncing around in the back of the cart.
At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book. It begins with Peter being excited, then disappointed, arguing with his father, and flinging the last words, “I hate you”, at his father’s back as Mr. Schock turns to leave the house. As Peter meets the Dyers and begins to lighten up, the story starts to look a bit predictable, but once they land in 18th century Derbyshire, the story really begins to take off. The children, who hardly know each other, are forced to put their heads together to try to figure out how to survive in this strange time and place, and how they will manage to get back to their own time and their families. Meanwhile, they find that they somehow blur and briefly return to their own time but with a pull on them that only allows them a few minutes before they are pulled backwards again, like they’re on the end of a huge and powerful elastic band. Their appearances cause quite a stir in their own time, confusing Detective Inspector Wheeler, and convincing him that Dr. Dyer and his friends from NASA know more than they’re telling, and even with 200 policemen scouring both city and countryside, he’s getting nowhere fast.
The children face highwaymen, footpads, villains, and meet famous scientists, writers, and the king and queen of England. They visit Newgate Prison, Covent Garden, and Tyburn, where they expect to see their friend Gideon hanged for a crime he didn’t commit. The story ends with rather a cliffhanger, which I’m not particularly keen on, but the partial resolution is a good compromise. The other two books in the trilogy are out as well: The Time Thief and The Time Quake. An interesting way to look into British (and French) history and the ethics of how time travel could be used by unscrupulous people to change history to their profit. * * * *
There are a couple of video-trailers for the book; check out this one with Avril Lavigne singing the theme, “We’ll Make it Through”.