Book Review: THE SHIP OF DOOM by M. A. Bennett (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in white on blue sky with moon above two kids running and a gold glockwork bird
Genre: Fantasy (time travel)
Age Range: Middle Grade
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book

Synopsis:

Book cover for THE SHIP OF DOOM: title in clockface with blue around it with children running, cogs, and a boat on the sea around the clock

Greenwich, London, 15th February 1894.

Luna thinks that an evening at her aunt’s butterfly club sounds deathly boring. But it turns out that the meeting, held in the Butterfly Room at the Greenwich Observatory, is not at all as Luna expects. The Butterfly Club is a society with an unusual secret . . . they use time travel to plunder the future for wonders.

Together with her friends, Konstantin and Aidan, and a clockwork cuckoo, Luna boards the Time Train. The gang travel to 1912 and find themselves aboard a great ship travelling from Southampton to New York. They locate a man called Guglielmo Marconi and his new invention: the wireless radio. But as the ship heads into icy waters, they discover its name: The RMS TITANIC

Can Luna and the boys save Marconi and his invention from the doomed ship? Can they get the radio back home to the Butterfly Club? And how will their actions change the rest of time? 

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

This is a great series starter about time travel and its possible consequences. It’s a fast paced adventure that absolutely did not go where I was expecting (that midpoint? I was expecting those events to come at the end of the book, for example.)

I’ve called it historical fantasy because of the time travel aspect, which is the only magical part of the whole book. Otherwise, the kids are on their own with their skills, wits, and a device that gives them advice from their friends at home.

I loved how so many historical details and oddities were taken from the Titanic’s journey and woven into the story as the working of time travel agents. It’s so cleverly done and makes it feel believable within the world itself. Without them, it probably wouldn’t have worked half so well, because there are all these little signposts to things that are sort of vaguely know and gives it a cohesive feel.

I really liked seeing the ripple effects of the children’s actions, and also their response to it. It gives time travel real consequences, and also imposes limits on them to where they can and can’t go (so there’s no big cop out of “why didn’t they/their society just go back much earlier to fix x y and z?”)

There’s also an opponent in the time-travel world that they’re up against, with hints that they are part of an organisation/plan that will eventually come up against the Butterfly Club. It’s done in such a way that it doesn’t undermine the tension of this book by focusing on setting up later ones. Instead, the opposing agent is a real obstacle to them, forcing them to think differently, and then promises continuity into the coming books.

I am looking forward to the next instalment in this series, which takes the children to the 1922 excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb.


Read my reviews of other books by M. A. Bennett:

Young Adult:

S.T.A.G.S.:

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