WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Nick of Time is a story about courage. Set primarily before the onset of World War II, young Nick McIver is caught up in a multi-faceted struggle against evil. His opponents include a murderous, time-travelling pirate, Nazi submariners, and his own fear.
Although the plot was enjoyable, this book was difficult for me to read. Two major contributors to this difficulty were the dialogue and the oddity of many situations.
Good dialogue is difficult to master, but one should at the very least be able to distinguish the characters by their form of expressing themselves. In Nick of Time, all the characters drop into “pirate talk” from time to time. Considering that the characters come from various backgrounds, including royalty, and different times, there ought to be more distinction in their manner of talk.
It is possible that I am being too picky, but many scenes became awkward to read, requiring several re-readings of paragraphs and pages in an attempt to reconnect with what Bell was trying to say.
The pinnacle of the weirdness in this book was a scene in which the antagonist loses the battle. He had traveled through time to kidnap the children of royalty and wealthy people for ransom. The kidnapped children lived in cages in his ship’s brig for up to 5 years without seeing the sun. When the evil pirate runs off in defeat, the children come pouring out of windows, doors, and “every nook and cranny of the ship” onto the deck. In spite of the blood, guts, and shrapnel, the children exultantly sing nursery rhymes while musical instruments of many kinds spontaneously join in. Who knew pirates brought harmonicas and tambourines to a sea battle? The cherry on top is two kids riding into the celebratory fray riding Shetland ponies. I had to put the book down and said out loud, “What!?”
Criticisms aside (although they were significant enough for me that I have no desire to continue reading the series) this would be a fun book for kids. It introduces the reader to some basics of ships and sea navigation, a touch of English Channel geography, important qualities like loyalty and courage, and a bit of history.
I started reading this book to my children and I think they will enjoy it, so we will finish reading it together, but my recommendation is less than enthusiastic.