My dear bookish friends,
I’m back with another review of a book that I really enjoyed recently – I seem to be on a roll when it comes to good books lately (though I hope I don’t jinx it now..). The Other Side of the Whale Road is different from any other book I’ve ever read, and I liked it all the more for it! I absolutely love time travel stories. This one is very special though. I’ve never read one about the Anglo-Saxon period before, even though it interested me ever since I learned about it during my studies of Old English and the history of the English language. I felt catapulted back to my uni days!
About the Book
Shortlisted for the Chicken House Competition
2 SEPTEMBER 2021 * PAPERBACK * £8.99 *
AGE 12–15 *
YOU KNOW HISTORY IS REAL WHEN IT’S RAZOR-SHARP AND AIMED AT YOUR NECK THE STORY OF KING EDMUND’S LAST BATTLE WITH THE GREAT HEATHEN ARMYBROUGHT TO LIFE FOR YOUNG ADULTS
‘The Vikings are better armed than we are. They have long, heavy axes that can take a man’s head from his shoulder. I know this because I see it happen’
When his mum burns down their house on the Whitehorse estate, sixteen-year-old Joss is sent to live in a sleepy Suffolk village. The place is steeped in history, as Joss learns when a bike accident pitches him back more than 1,000 years to an Anglo-Saxon village. That history also tells him his new friends are in mortal peril from bloodthirsty invaders.
Can he warn their ruler, King Edmund, in time?
And will he ever get home?
Joss doesn’t lead an easy life. He is used to his mum being difficult, their home being messy and dirty, his little twin sisters crying, his school days being awful. But then, his mum burns down their home with a cigarette. And Joss finds himself in foster care, in a quiet, rural village in Suffolk. He isn’t used to be surrounded by such calm, friendly people, by people who seem to mean the nice things they say. He also isn’t used to the peace and quiet of the rural area he suddenly finds himself in. Then, one day when he rides the bike down a mountain, Joss has an accident. He feels crushing pain, sees blinding whiteness all around him. Is he dead? Is this what death feels like?
No. Joss is alive. But…something is still different… something feels very wrong. Why can he understand the srange man who’s come to his help, even though the words he hears are very different from the words he is used to? And even stranger still, how come Joss replies to him in the same strange language? Is it a concussion? Did something happen to his brain when he fell off the bike? Or has the impossible happened, and Joss finds himself in a different time?
As I mentioned briefly above, I absolutely LOVE time travel stories. Usually so far, they have been time travel romance (Outlander, anyone?), but On the Other Side of the Whale Road is different from anything I’ve read so far. The good kind of different. From the beginning I felt wish Joss, actually, my heart was aching for him. The poor boy has been through so much in his young life! I’m so glad he found a foster home with Cressida and Tim, two genuinely good people who are so supportive of him, it almost made me tear up. I love that in such a short time, Joss has started to feel at home with them – so much that he didn’t even want to leave anymore.
And then of course his time travel! I loved how Joss just went with it. He assumed his body laid unconscious somewhere on the ground and that – what? – maybe that he himself was having a very realistic dream. I love the way he spoke to the man who found him, how he explained to him how riding a bike works and how different it was from riding a horse – and yet, with no syllable did he mention he might have just jumped back in time a couple hundred years. This matter-of-factness is something I enjoyed immensely about Joss’s character.
In the past where Joss arrived unknowingly, he has many questions to answer and people to convince, but in my opinion he does an excellent job of that. He tries very hard to remember what his new friend Alice told him about the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings, and – lucky guy – the people he just met believe him. Something else I really liked was that in the past, too, Joss finds a foster home. Very much unlike the foster home he had found with Cressida and Tim in the Suffolk of his time, but much more like with his own mother. It made my heart break all over again when Joss thought about how much he wants to be back home with his new foster parents, and how the sobs were building up in his throat…
I have found Joss to be a remarkable young boy, and a very intriguing character. He is honest, strong, kind, humble, and caring, and the way he deals with the things that should be impossible is one of a kind. The adventures he faces, as well as all the hardships he fights are incredibly moving and definitely worth a read. I would have wished for some more positives, maybe a little more time with Cressida and Tim for Joss to really feel at home before he was yanked out of there again, but this way we see his character grow all the more.
Very remarkable, one of a kind time travel story.
4 stars from me, and I can’t wait to see what else the author comes up with!
Thank you all so much for reading!
P.S. Big thank you to Dave at TheWriteReads, the author, and Lightning Books for my ecopy and spot on this tour!
About the Author
K.A. HAYTON was born in Lincolnshire and read English at Sheffield University. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and has two daughters. The idea for The Other Side of the Whale Road came from her study of old English poetry at university, and from living in a place where Anglo-Saxon history feels very close.