This is the story of Tom Afflick, who reluctantly moves from Manchester to Edinburgh with his mother after his parents split up. Immediately he feels like an outsider, a “manky”, both at home, where his mother and her new man only have eyes for each other, and at school, where he’s an easy target because of his Mancunian accent and some unpleasant rumours about his mother’s boyfriend.
On a school trip to Mary King’s Close, a section of an Edinburgh street which has been authentically restored to what it was like in the 17th century, Tom follows a girl dressed in historical clothing and falls through the floor into another dimension. He is now in 1645, the year of the Edinburgh plague. Here he ends up in an orphanage, and when one of the other children falls ill, he crosses paths with the feared plague doctor, Doctor Rae, who forces Tom to become his apprentice.
Thus begins a chilling adventure, full of surprises and twisty turns. Tom, who has hitherto tried to blend into the background to avoid the school bullies, proves himself to be resourceful and learns to speak up for himself and when he sees an injustice done.
Crowboy is described in rich detail, so rich that you can almost smell the dirt, hear the horses’ clattering hooves, taste the unpalatable food. There’s also a real sense of unease running through the novel as the lines between the past and the present become blurred, and the reader is presented with a number of alternate realities.
Despite the complexities of time travel, which is the subject of Crowboy, the novel is written in a very accessible style, and should appeal to both boys and girls age 10 plus.