Nick of Time

Written by Ted Bell
Review by Eileen Charbonneau


Set in the summers of both 1939 and 1805 in the English Channel, Bell has fashioned a boy’s adventure courtesy of a time traveling orb invented by Leonardo Da Vinci. Twelve-year-old Nick McIver, growing up in a lighthouse family with a view “the most splendid in all of England,” is visited by a mysterious sea chest with his name on it: a call for help from an ancestor in Nelson’s navy.

Nick is soon up against both the vile time-traveling, dog- and children-napping pirate Billy Blood and a Nazi U-Boat and its mad captain and SS spies. Nick receives help from master British spies Lord Hawke and Commander Hobbes, who live on Greybeard Island’s mysterious lair. Soon Nick, Hawke and innkeeper Gunner are off to aid his ancestor in 1805 while his little sister Kate joins forces with Commander Hobbes to turn the tables on their Nazi captors.

Once it overcomes a slow start, the story is full of pirates on top of the water and Nazis below. Nick lassoes the U-Boat for a Nantucket Sleigh ride, and flies from the masts of his ancestor’s vessel. Plot-driven excitement, with moments that were, as Nick describes time travel, “magic itself,” the tale also suffers from sloppy editing and wooden, cliché-riddled dialogue. These lead, despite the novel’s formidable length, to an unfinished, inauthentic feel. Although its young readers are sure to enjoy Nick of Time, they deserve better. Ages 8-12.