CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 10 . . . . November 7, 2014
In Every Never After and Now and For Never, teen heroines Clarinet Reid and Allie McAllister have remained in Britain for the rest of their summer vacations. After recovering from the wild time travelling adventure of Once Every Never, the first book in the series, the two are looking forward to a little quiet time while volunteering at an archaeological dig near the town of Glastonbury. Glastonbury, though, is a centre of ancient spiritual power, and it is inevitable that the dig will be anything but boring. This time Allie is the “time monkey,” shooting back into the Iron Age struggle between Romans and Celts after finding a skull at the dig site.
The point of view in Every Never After switches between Allie, stuck in a besieged Roman encampment, and Clare, back in the twentieth century formulating a plan to bring Allie home and keep the integrity of their timeline intact. Arch-nemesis Stuart Morholt is out for revenge after the girls foiled his plans to steal gold and power and left him behind in the past. Allie is rescued by a Roman soldier with a secret. It is rather obvious that the solider in question is, in fact, Mark McDowell, classmate of Morholt and Clare’s aunt Magda, lost in time after a Druidic ritual at Glastonbury Tor in the 1980s. Sparks fly between Marcus and Allie, and it is great to see her have her own sizzling romance. While Queen Boudicca may be dead, her sister, the Druidess Mallora, is alive and well (and angry) and keeping things dangerous in the Roman camp.
Clare and Milo meet Piper Gamble, a girl whose family has been entrusted with Stuart Morholt’s diary for two thousand years. She is shocked when the famous Clarinet Reid shows up at her antique shop to claim it. The entire crew opens a vortex back to their century, but, at the last minute, Marcus is left behind.
It is inevitable that book three in the trilogy, Now and For Never, concerns getting Marcus back home. It takes a few minutes for Allie to convince Clare that they need to time travel yet again, but Clare is game. This time they will be prepared. The big discovery is a digital camera chip with scrambled photos from this escapade into the past. The girls soon find themselves on a magically-aided voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to an island in the gulf of the St Lawrence. Mallora has brought the remaining Celts here to regroup and start a new life. The Romans are following in order to regain their plundered gold. Morholt again lurks in the wings, making trouble. Clare and Allie need to get Marcus back home and make sure the Celtic gold ends up buried in the right spots to be discovered in the future. If they don’t succeed, their new companion, Piper, may cease to exist.
Livingston’s books have two great strengths - plots that move at breakneck speed, and witty repartee between appealing, relatable characters. It is a good thing that the plot is so relentless, because it distracts the reader from the many gaps, inconsistencies and holes. There are numerous instances when friends keep secrets from each other for no reason, when an important artifact is left uninvestigated and then lost or stolen, and when a character explains a significant story but leaves out the most important details. I actually wish Livingston would streamline and simplify the action so that it made more sense. It’s really way more complicated and more drawn out than necessary. In books with so much plot, it is surprising that there are still a lot of scenes where groups of characters just stand around talking. In addition, any surprises in the plot are quite telegraphed.
Clare and Allie are a great team, even if they are separated in quite a lot of the story. Their chemistry is the heart of these books, and they are a really fun pair. They are very funny, and their friendship allows Livingston to play a lot with their personal jokes and turns of phrase. Allie really comes into her own, and this just makes the great relationship stronger. The separations give room for developing the romances between Clare and Allie’s cousin Milo and Allie and Marcus. The girls enjoy drooling over their attractive boyfriends, and their enthusiasm is pretty fun to read. The transitions between their points of view are tight, and most scenes are paced well.
There is not a lot to be learned about history here as these novels are certainly not meant to be educational books. But there are some aspects of Celtic culture and craftsmanship that are well illustrated. And the books pay interesting attention to the history of war and conflict and whether the Romans are to be condemned for imperialism and bloodshed or whether they can be credited with bringing progress in their wake. Clare hates the Romans for their heartless destruction of the Iceni people, but she does feel for the fate of the individual soldier. These two books are perhaps even less concerned with history than Once Every Never, maybe because that book already established the general setting. These two stories are much more personal, though, and are about the inner and outer dilemmas of the two protagonists, an approach which works well for narrative flow and readability. The development of the themes of mysticism and magic is also very good. I particularly like how the existence of magic is basically taken for granted. There will definitely be a lot for readers to enjoy here, especially if they are not looking too deeply.
Kris Rothstein is a children’s book agent and reviewer in Vancouver, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.