Charlie Bone and the Time Twister: Lots of flaws

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Jenny Nimmo Charlie Bone and the Time TwisterCharlie Bone and the Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo

The first Charlie Bone book had lots of basic flaws in it: lack of story or character development, a sense of arbitrariness, an overly familiar feel to it, etc., but the premise was just interesting enough, and the characters’ magical “endowments” just quirky enough that one hoped Jenny Nimmo could improve in book two and start putting together a worthwhile series. Sadly, based on this second effort, that hope isn’t borne out.

First, Charlie Bone and the Time Twister simply has a careless feel to it. There are far too many places where the author either contradicts herself or tosses in an out-of-the-blue plot moment or arbitrarily assigns an endowment or task to a character. It’s almost as if Nimmo herself doesn’t care much about the story or its characters. As two quick examples: in one section Charlie and his friend Fidelio are aware of Billy Raven’s “intense stare” while they are plotting something (this after both have spoken of Billy’s penchant for spying). Only a paragraph later, Fidelio tells Charlie if they can divert the attention of just Manfred and Asa (two bad students) they’d be fine as nobody else would bother to watch them. Except, perhaps, the kid they’ve already told us is a spy and who is staring at them right now? In another scene, Charlie is speaking to Cook and trying to keep a secret from two bystanders — “What about you-know-who?” he asks. But literally only a half-dozen lines later he asks her “but what are we going to do about Henry?” So much for not prying any information out of Charlie. There are other examples of this sort of carelessness — even if the author can’t be bothered to catch them one would think/hope her editor would.

But there are other problems as well. The characters, including Charlie, are all far too shallow. There is little to no development of any of the major characters. Plot events tumble one over the other with little sense of structure or purpose, and characters perform actions that are seemingly utterly arbitrary, with little sense of motivation save the author’s need to move the plot in some direction or other. And plot threads from book one are barely touched upon at all here, adding to the sense of arbitrariness. The settings suffer from a lack of development so that one seldom has any true sense of a real world being created. The book has a sketchy feel all the way through it, as if one pitched a neat idea (the X-men kids meet Harry Potter and Hogwarts) but never filled in the blanks.

In short, there is none of the richness of character, plot, or setting that one sees in other recent works of young adult fantasy, whether it be the Harry Potter books, or Gregor the Overlander or The Water Mirror or more classic works such as the rediscovered Narnia series or Earthsea. There’s too much good stuff out there to keep hoping this series will get better so a recommendation to skip Charlie Bone and try something else.

The Children of the Red King —  (2002-2007) Ages 9-12. Publisher: The fabulous powers of the Red King were passed down through his descendants, after turning up quite unexpectedly, in someone who had no idea where they came from. This is what happened to Charlie Bone, and to some of the children he met behind the grim, gray walls of Bloor’s Academy. Charlie Bone has discovered an unusual gift — he can hear people in photographs talking! His scheming aunts decide to send him to Bloor Academy, a school for genius’s where he uses his gifts to discover the truth despite all the dangers that lie ahead.

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Chronicles of the Red King —  (2011-2013) Ages 9-12. Publisher: NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author Jenny Nimmo is back with a brand-new series chronicling the origin and the adventures of Charlie Bone’s magical ancestor, the Red King! Timoken is a prince born in a secret kingdom. At his birth, a forest jinni bestows magical gifts upon him: a cloak made by the last moon spider and a potion called Alixir. When the peaceful land is attacked, Timoken and his sister, Zobayda, must find a new kingdom to call home. Together, with only the magical gifts and a talking camel, the siblings set off. In this brand-new series, bestselling author Jenny Nimmo takes readers on an extraordinary quest with one of her most powerful and mysterious characters, the one who started it all for Charlie Bone and the children of the Red King.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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