Shadows from the Past is the amazingly wonderful time-travelling series for middle grade readers from Wendy Leighton-Porter. And much loved by adults like me! Especially if you like cats, or reluctant heros, or any combination of these things.
I caught up to number 15 in February, with Shadow of the Witchfinder. I’ve indicated the novellas that make up the missing numbers in the series. I had to catch up with these before reading Shadow of the Great Fire (#17), which is today’s main menu. And that gives me a series caught up for my Finishing the Series Reading Challenge!
Max’s Adventures (2-6); Shadows from the Past #9, 11, 12, 14, 16
I confess I read the first two a long long time ago, as they featured in the BookElves Anthologies Volumes 1 and 2. I’ve skipped Max’s Arabian Adventure (SftP #8) which was the first spin-off, and I reviewed last year.
But increasingly references in the main series books suggested I was missing out on something. What Max had been up to in his spare time is mostly explained in Max’s Undercover Adventure. Without making a spoiler, it seems Max is not just a tag-along companion to the kids in their time-travelling adventures. There are more strange things going on in time-travel land than you can ever imagine. That leads quickly into Max’s Halloween Adventure. As I mention in my review of Shadow of the Witchfinder, this is really an essential prologue to that novel.
You could easily read either of those to your kids as bedtime stories over two nights. I read them both in not much more than an hour.
Max’s Royal Adventure is a little more meaty and gives Max a serious role in England’s history. Interestingly, the author is firmly pro-royal in this story, set during the English Civil War. Most kids stories are (The Children of the New Forest is a classic I loved as a kid). And I was a staunch royalist up till my teens, when I shifted to a commonwealth supporter, largely due to Richard Harris’s Cromwell. And I still would be, if it wasn’t for the parlous state of politics these days! But… you should read this one before getting to the next full-length Shadows book.
Shadow of the Great Fire (Shadows from the Past #17)
by Wendy Leighton-Porter
In 1666, as London recovers from a deadly plague, the old medieval city with its narrow streets has become a tinderbox. After a long, hot summer, a small spark is all it takes for the whole place to go up in flames – but is this a simple accident or a deliberate act of sabotage?
Towards the end of August, days before the Great Fire is due to break out, three time-travelling children and their talking cat land on the doorstep of one of the most famous figures of the 17th century. Can they discover why they’ve been sent there before it’s too late? Time is running out… (goodreads)
This is the one period of English history I’m really confident about. If you visit London, don’t miss the wonderful exhibit at the Museum of London, set in the old city walls close to the Barbican.
As usual, Wendy Leighton-Porter brings history alive in the best possible way, as Jemima, Joe and Charlie take the time-travelling journey to the past. They are a bit slow on the uptake once again, but soon find themselves rescued by a kindly lady. She instals them in her house, and fabricates a story of them being her long-lost cousin’s children, in need of her care.
Charlie is well-prepared for this journey, having smuggled modern maps through the portal to help him find his way. I wonder how much this influenced Christopher Wren’s plans for the future? The author takes a few liberties with which famous people are in London at the same time, having arguments and debates in London’s coffee houses, but it’s all for good reason.
And for the first time, we cross the path of the children’s lost parents, and discover (although I think we’d guessed) why they can’t get back to their own time.
I was really looking forward to this book, and I wasn’t disappointed. The time, the event, and the sights and sounds of London of 1666 are brilliantly created and used by Leighton-Porter in Shadow of the Great Fire. And Max plays an essential role, once more. Even if he is a bit of a wuss otherwise!Book Reviews | Shadows from the Past Catch-up: a review of Max's Adventures plus the GREAT Shadow of the Great Fire – brilliantly recreated by @WendyLeightonPorter Click To Tweet
and next…. Shadow of the Slave Ship…..