The Time Travel Diaries: Time Travel Diaries 1

Written by Caroline Lawrence
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

Billionaire Solomon Daisy has invented a time machine and placed the travel portal in the recently-excavated Roman Mithraeum in London. He is obsessed by the skeleton of Lollia, a blue-eyed 14-year-old Roman girl, and he’s desperate to find out more about her. Unfortunately, only pre-pubescent children can Time Travel, and Alex Papas, who’s twelve, small for his age, speaks Greek and knows some Latin, would be perfect. Solomon convinces Alex to step through the portal and find out more about the blue-eyed girl. There are just three rules: Naked you go and naked you must return; drink, don’t eat; as little interaction as possible.

Time Travel is far riskier than Alex ever imagined, and things go wrong almost immediately when Dinu, who bullies Alex at school, also slips though the portal. Dinu knowns nothing of Roman London; he doesn’t understand the not eating and not interacting rule – until he’s violently sick. Lollia turns out to be a pretty but spoilt brat who slaps her slave girl, Plecta, and demands that Alex and Dinu help her escape an arranged marriage. Worse, Dinu falls in love with her.

It is an emotional as well as a fact-finding journey for Alex. He must learn how Roman society really works – and fast. And he must ensure that he and Dinu get back to the 21st century safely, without endangering the girls.

I enjoyed this book. Caroline Lawrence, best-selling author of The Roman Mysteries, knows her stuff and gets across the dirty and dangerous reality of life in the 3rd century AD, when disease was rife and life-expectancy short.  She sets the scene with “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Roman London” to make sure that her young readers understand that life in Roman London doesn’t resemble a Hollywood movie. Suitable for 11 plus.