Nick of Time by Ted Bell is one of the best underrated adventure stories for young(ish) readers. It follows a young man and his sister as they travel through time avoiding Nazis as well as 16th century pirates.
“A hero is merely a man never afraid of being called to heaven because he is certain he has done his duty, Nicholas.”
-Admiral Lord Nelson (fictional), Nick of Time
“It’s 1939, and 12-year-old Nick McIver lives in a lighthouse on an island off the coast of England with his mother, father, six-year-old sister Kate and faithful dog Jip. He spends his free time reading adventure stories and sailing his trusty boat, the Stormy Petrel. But part of him is a bit worried that he’s not as brave as the fellows in his books; he’s afraid of being afraid. Little does he know that his courage will be put to the test soon,” Nick of Time, by Ted Bell.
It is a heartwarming story that adventurers of all ages can enjoy.
Goodreads only shows the general rating for this book as a 3.5, which is ridiculous for how well-written and complex the story is.
Steph Su’s review of Nick of Time:
1. It feels like a mediocre adult thriller writer’s attempt to write for children, i.e. it fails. Excessive description, lack of character development, confusing and unappealing plot.
2. The protagonist, Nick, undergoes no growth throughout the novel.
3. Dialogue is overly dramatic and artificial. Great for a puppet show performed for a crowd of pre-schoolers. As a middle-grade novel? Not so much.
4. The plot is uneven, with things dropped into the story and never to be seen again, and too-long tangents that readers will not care about. The time machine element is not even introduced until halfway through the 400+ page novel, and by then readers won’t care anymore.
5. Having Kate be the only semi-appealing character in the book does not justify the other 99% of awfulness. Six-year-old main characters are just not relatable, and more often than not become extremely annoying, even as they are supposedly charming.
6. The characters are inauthentic. The villains are overly villainified, and the “joker” characters bumble around and speak geeky nonsense.
I would like to say that some of this lady’s points are valid.
It was Ted Bell’s first attempt at a children’s story, but so was Harry Potter. The protagonist has a lot of growth for a 12 year old boy. The dialogue is a little dramatic, but it is simplified for a middle schooler’s reading level. The reviewer says Time Travel was not introduced until over halfway through the book, but this is not true – the mystery is hit on right off the bat. The six year old character is adorable and vital to the character development of a much older character.
Others have much nicer things to say:
Ted Bell’s Nick of Time is part of the Alex Hawke series, Bell’s line of spy adventure novels. Nick of Time is the first young adult addition to the series, and serves well as a stand alone title. I found it enjoyable without being familiar to the earlier books.
Nick of Time is an enthralling read from beginning to end. The lead character, Nicholas McIver, is alive in the 1930s, but the character is so well-written, he could fit seamlessly in any time period (and soon does). Nick is plucky, adventurous, and is rich with boyish charm and a fervent desire for heroics of that of hero, Admiral Nelson.
His sister, Kate, is just as charming and precocious. She’s admiring of her brother, and the moments between the two characters were some of my favorites. The two live with their family in a lighthouse in the smallest of the Channel Islands, on Greybeard Island. Nick spends his days sailing the waters around the island, and develops a keen sense of every rock and reef surrounding them. One day, out on such an excursion, Nick discovers a mysterious chest, sent from 1805 by his ancestor, the Royal Navy’s Captain Nicholas McIver. Inside Nick finds a time machine, along with a letter, and learns the Captain and his entire fleet, Nelson’s men, are under attack by the treacherous Billy Blood. And he’ll stop at nothing to get the time machine, a double to the one he possesses. Meanwhile, the Nazis have their submarines in English waters and are closing in.
Kate and Nick enlist the help of the Lord Alexander Hawke, and his right-hand man, Commander Hobbes. Hobbes and Kate stay behind in 1939 to warn Churchhill of the impending Nazi invasion, while Hawke and Nick travel back to 1805 to help defeat Billy Blood, who travels throughout time, kidnapping children and livestock, and holding them for ransom. It is then that Nick discovers how he truly is a hero.
Nick of Time is action-packed from start to finish. It’s well-paced, with a mixture of fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction. Although my grasp of history isn’t that impressive, the details within the novel kept me riveted, from the descriptions of Nick’s encounters with his ancestor to the battle scenes, which moved quickly and weren’t bogged down in gratuitous detail. The emotional content of the novel also kept me hooked, especially in a poginant scene between Nelson and Nick. Nick of Time is a young adult book, but will capture the attention of any reader with its richly drawn characters, exciting action, and tender emotion for parents, for one’s country, and for family.
~~ Bri Ahrean, Goodreads reviewer
So…. check it out!