The Time Traveller's Apprentice

Discussion in 'General Books' started by LyannaWolfBlood, Oct 9, 2011.

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How do you rate The Time Traveller's Apprentice?

  1. ★★★★★

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  2. ★★★★

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  3. ★★★

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    50.0%
  4. ★★

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  5. 0 vote(s)
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  1. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    OK everyone, it's time to discuss Kelly Horrocks' "The Time Traveller's Apprentice". Please rate and discuss the book here.
     
  2. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    Personally, I started off being fairly unimpressed by this book but it grew on me as I read on. I think that is probably because I had no idea what to expect before reading it and was a little dismayed at first to see that it was aimed at quite young readers. However, I'm not adverse to reading a bit of Young Adult fiction now and while it doesn't match up the the best YA fiction out there (Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza and anything by Meg Rosoff come to mind), it was certainly better than plenty of YA books around.

    ***Spoilers from here on in***

    I think the author managed the intricacy of the plotting very well. One touch I particularly liked was the fact that William was the author of the memoirs that shown Moira where to go in the end. I also appreciated the fact the the author was willing to make things a little murkier than is usual for this genre with John's character, and that he wasn't depicted simply as a bad guy. I'd still question what was so awful about trying to reduce the power of the king (with the caveat that I know very little about that period of English history) but ultimately that's not something that would affect my judgement of the book.

    As for the bad, I have to say that I thought the main characters, Bryn and Simon, were fairly unexceptional. Not that they were bad characters or anything, and I'm sure I would have had no problem with them if I'd read this when I was 12 or so but I've read the "precocious kids stumble onto a secret and foil a plot" storyline before and it didn't feel much different this time. I also thought some of the writing felt a little anachronistic - there is a point towards the end where Bryn uses the phrase "bad guy" which sounded a little too modern American for a 12th century girl to me - but on the whole the writing was pretty good. (Of course, I know that if the writing was genuine 12th century English we wouldn't understand it but that still jarred to me.)

    On the whole, I'd definitely recommend it to a kid in the 10-12 age group and I found it quite a diverting, if rather lightweight, read myself.

    Question: Did anyone feel that the history infodumps were a little forced? I felt that the author mostly did quite well with that but there were times they seemed a little unnatural.
     
  3. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    Actually, the problem I had with the book, was the writing.
    At times it was just too cute for my taste and though I appreciate that I'm not the intended audience (a fortysomething year old male), I still need my fiction to be somewhat literate. I just wasn't taken by the whirlwind history-for-dummies approach and as you mentioned, the awkward info dumps. As I recall I was fresh from reading some of the Brother Cadfael stories by Ellis Peters, and The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert... and that may have raised the bar a bit for me for historical fiction. Writing in period is difficult.

    I have to agree, teens would love it... most especially teenage girls.
     
  4. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    I agree with your views on Bryn and Simon, Lyanna; I found them not exactly stereotypical, but simple, with the assets needed for the plot. I do find, however that the rest of the characters are pretty good, especially the ones that are not mentioned much, other than in a historical fashion. I think that this is probably because she is a history teacher, and therefore does not speak of them as fictional characters, but as historical ones.
    The way the history lessons were given was a little obvious, as in not integrated into the plot. I wrote to the author about the note in the beginning where she apologises for the history lessons; saying that I didn't think that it was needed. The fact that the history was there I said was good, but did say that it could have been written differently.
    They do mention King Stephen and Empress Maud though, who are very present in the Brother Cadfaels.
    I would recommend this to 11-14 year-olds.

    @LyannaWolfBlood: The king losing power at that time was a very big thing; it only came about under King John (Henry II Plantagenet's son) and lasted for less than a week, but many more things have been drawn from it (Magna Carta 1215). That is how English Parlementary Government began, though it was only really there as a liberal government after the Bill of Rights and the Habeus Corpus in 1689 when William and Mary became sovereigns. The barons really did mount a rebellion against the king and with John - who'd just lost all the English holdings in France - managed to reduce his authoritarian power.
     
  5. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    Good points all, Druid. I agree with you about the author's note; it came across as being a little patronising.

    Thanks for that, but my issue is that I don't understand why challenging royal power is clearly described as a bad thing in a novel written by a 21st century author. But, like I said, it's not a big issue.
     
  6. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    Seeing as it's a historical novel however would mean that she can't NOT write about challenging the monarch's power. And nowadays we can write just about anything in a book. The plot is shown as bad, anyway; which - under Henry II - it was.
     
  7. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    I'm not suggesting that she should censor her writing or that she shouldn't have written about this particular subject. Quite the contrary, in fact; I think it was rather a good choice of topic. However, what I am questioning is the black-and-white depiction of royal power=good, attempt by others (specifically nobles) to gain power=bad. In particular, I'm questioning why a 21st century boy such as Simon would immediately go along with this viewpoint.

    Also, whether something is wrong or right historically is by no means as black and white as you think it is. In what sense was the plot wrong? Morally? Depends on your morals. Legally? Certainly. Because the results would be negative? Negative for whom? Certainly negative for the King, but is that enough to make it unequivocally "bad"? What if the results are negative for the king but positive or neutral for the rest of the country? Even if Henry II was the paragon of virtue he is portrayed as, is it really so unreasonable for the nobles to attempt to limit royal power, given that Henry is not always going to be king and the curse of monarchy is that eventually there will always be a bad ruler? I'm not suggesting that she should have answered these questions but it would have been nice at least to see some of them raised.
     
  8. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    During the time period we're talking about both royalty and nobility = bad.
    It wasn't like the Noble Families of England were fighting for equal rights and protection for the common person. They were in it for themselves.

    And you'd also be grossly underestimating what kind of man HenryII was.
    He was about as close to an "every man's king" as one could expect during the middle ages.

    But they only wished to limit the King's power as it concerned them.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2011
  9. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    I am entirely aware of the fact that 12th century English nobles were not advocates of utopian democracy. I am actually a history student; it's just that this isn't a period I'm particularly aware of. I do, however, wish she'd taken a more nuanced view of the institution of monarchy, particularly when one of her characters comes from an era when one-man rule is not the norm. I don't have a problem with the 12th century characters buying into the notion that rebellion against the king is always wrong, but I would have liked for Simon to have at least questioned it.

    And if both nobles and king were similarly "bad" (obviously a vast oversimplification), why is the king depicted without question as the good guy and the nobles as the bad guys?

    And his heirs? Could anyone guarantee that they would be such fine rulers or people? Like I said, there will always be a bad king eventually.

    In short, I don't even really have a problem with her conclusions. I just wish she'd dealt with the issue a bit more thoughtfully.
     
  10. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    I think it's more indicative of Fantasy targeted at younger audiences that there isn't multiple perspectives and some meaningful gray area in the story. Hell, from my point of view it was a good thing that Thomas Becket was murdered. If I'd been King of England at the time Mr.Becket would not have lasted as long as he did.:)



    Hey, I totally agree... though I think that we often bring our own modern sensibilities to fiction and want the writer to oblige us in some way. The other problem is that today's younger readers tend to get confused easily and writing a more textured story with realistic characters in a realistic world, facing moral dilemmas and such, perhaps wouldn't be as satisfying.
     
  11. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    I'm not so sure about that, Sparrow. I think we sell young readers short by assuming that that they can't deal with heavier issues. I also think there's a risk that if we assume that kids can't deal with anything complex we will turn that assumption into a self-fulfilling prophecy because we won't give them a chance to try it. If today's younger readers get confused easily (and why do you specify "today's", by the way? Kids today are no less intelligent than they were in the past), then maybe that's because they aren't being challenged. Personally, I was pretty impressed when my then 12-year-old cousin told me that, although she quite liked Twilight, she didn't particularly like the way Edward treated Bella and thought that the Native American characters were depicted in a rather racist fashion. It's not impossible for a 12-year-old to be able to read with a fair degree of critical appraisal.

    Just to reference one of the books I mentioned in my initial review, Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza series is a good example of how I wish "The Time Traveller's Apprentice" had been written. It's actually a very similar storyline, in that a modern-day teenager (a new one per book) gets transported to a fantasy version of Renaissance-era Italy. These are definitely YA books and it's rather a cosy depiction of Renaissance society, but the characters do tend to at least notice and acknowledge that this is a very different society to the one they're used to. They retain their 21st century values and identity, which is something I didn't feel with Simon. In fact, Bryn and Simon seemed to think in exactly the same way, which is rather bizarre given how far apart (both chronologically and figuratively) their upbringings were.
     
  12. WildPony

    WildPony New Member

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    Well, LWB I agree with you about Simon, his character was a bit unrealistic. When I started reading the book initially I thought it was truly horrible, but then I realised I was reading it as a 24 year old and not as the target audience may read it. So I started again, and put myself in the right mindframe. For a ten year old like my niece, this book is great. It is a fun book, and they can learn historically from it, a good mixture. For myself, I found the characters a bit shallow, I didn't think they were properly described in depth, I mean, I felt disconnected with them. The writing style is also something I did not quite enjoy, I found it a bit forced and halting. But, as I said, looking at it from a child's perspective and not a post graduate literature 24 year old, it was brilliant.
     
  13. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    Actually, one reason why Simon will have gone against the nobles is that he was sent back there of a reason; that time was being changed (Sort of like in King of Shadows when Nick is sent back to stop Shakespeare from dying) by the nobles rebelling, and that he had to change it back. And as we have mentioned, he will have learned that Henry II was a good king, and he was helping his friend who was pro Henry II. The nobles were also not being exactly nice to him either, and would probably have made a bigger problem with England than Henry II.
    We are always taught all that Henry II was good and nobles bad, but that King John was bad and nobles good. The author simply followed this, as I don't believe that she sees it this way, and she is simply explaining the history to children in a way they understand (black and white) by the "goodies" being the ones that win in the end, and probably were better for the country.

    So I guess we've all agreed that this book seems pretty shallow for older readers, which history lessons too biased or divided, and very obvious as well as not exactly perfectly integrated, however for a younger audience (as shown on website) it is perfect, and they enjoy it and learn history in an easy and fun way at the same time.
     
  14. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    I don't want to keep harping on about it, but I don't buy the "it's simple because it's for children" argument. Children are not stupid and history as portrayed here is outright patronising to kids IMO. There are plenty of books which talk about history in an age-appropriate context without being this black-and-white. (Exhibit A. Seriously, if you have kids buy them this book. It's awesome.)

    Really? I mean, not being British I never studied this period in school, but even in primary school I was never taught anything quite that simplistic (or indeed anything that moralistic) in a history class. Sure, it was relatively simple and we didn't go into detail on anything, but "the good king won over the nasty nobles with the help of the loyal peasant" is fairytale, not history. It's worth teaching the difference between the two.


    I don't understand what you mean in the emboldened part.
     
  15. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    I'm British but live in Belgium and go to a french-speaking school. (I've actually learnt more about Henry II, Magna Carta, ...(apart from kings and queens of England) in 1 year, than my parents in all their years, who both went to Oxford.) So that is the way it is seen and taught in Belgium, and that is how I'm basing myself. In England they hardly learn this.

    An auto-correction there because I'd missed a letter. I meant "with history lessons..." which means that they're simplified, or based upon one side, and given at obvious times without much integration into the flow of the plot.
     
  16. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    OK, I'll admit that surprises me. The fact remains that teaching any kind of history at any level as the good guy against the bad guy is BS. I'm not saying here that there haven't been good or bad people throughout history. But, to take a very obvious example, history shouldn't be taught as "Hitler was a bad person". It should be taught as "Hitler invaded and occupied many countries, killing many people and committing genocide against the Jews". Naturally, any halfway reasonable person will immediately conclude that Hitler was a horrible person, but the point of history is to teach facts (or, at a certain level, to discuss and evaluate theories and interpretations), not to make value judgements.

    Also, your particular example ("We are always taught all that Henry II was good and nobles bad, but that King John was bad and nobles good.") doesn't actually make sense. How can the nobles suddenly change from being "bad" to "good" with a change of monarchy? Also, how can the nobles be treated as one homogenous entity?


    Oh I see. I agree with that.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2011
  17. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    There was one generation between Henry II and John (father and son), so the nobles were different. Another thing is that because Henry II was so good for England, whatever the nobles did was actually worse for it, so the population would see it as bad. Then when they took over from John they were doing mainly the same thing, but the difference is that John was an awful king: he lost all of the Holdings in France that Alinor of Aquitaine brought to England, and was pretty tyrannical, so the nobles were seen as a better option. The nobles are also mentioned as one entity because if people are separating them they'll have the nobles and the royalists. Also the ones that didn't get involved were of no importance so are not mentioned.
     
  18. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    There were ten years between the end of Henry II's reign and the beginning of John's, so many of the nobles were the same. Secondly you're defining the nobles in terms of the Kings (i.e. the nobles were bad relative to Henry and good relative to John) and not at all as themselves. Why should the king be the moral barometer in that way? Also, the population is no more a single entity than are the nobles.


    I'm assuming by "nobles" you mean "nobles who opposed Henry", and by "royalists" you mean "people (presumably usually also nobles) who supported Henry", correct? That's a reasonable division for a historical novel aimed at children. It is absurdly simplistic for a history lesson aimed at adults. You're seriously suggesting that a group of literally thousands of people of differing wealth, values, rank, geography, etc. can be treated as a single entity (or two entities if I'm correctly distinguishing what you mean by nobles and royalists)?

    For the record, I have no problem believing you that Henry was a better king than John. I just find the moral absolutes you're coming out with to be very weird.
     
  19. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    There were to that many people in England at that time, the nobles that took part in politics were not that numerous. Also; life-expectancy was not really that long then, and many things could change in 10 years when we're talking about heritage in the Middle-Ages, especially seeing as John lost all of his lands after a war against France and losing it, so there will have been many nobles captured and killed.
    Another point is that this book is aimed at children, and is teaching history lessons to children, so it is not supposed to be complicated.
     
  20. LyannaWolfBlood

    LyannaWolfBlood Ella Dictadora

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    There's no point in continuing this because we keep saying the same things but, yet again, you (not just the book) are making sweeping moral statements. Your point about nobles being killed and John losing his lands is a good political point about how circumstances could change people's perspectives and priorities; it doesn't make an entire group of people suddenly good (or bad) people. It's your mixing of politics and morality I have an issue with.

    I acknowledged that.