Mascherato Publishing


Published: November 12, 2013
Author's Twitter: @asgavin
No one remembers Charlie’s name. He falls through holes in time. And a clockwork man is trying to kill him. But there’s an eighteenth century Scottish girl who can bring him back home – assuming they don’t destroy history by accidentally letting Ben Franklin get killed.   Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, his own mother can’t remember his name. So when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don’t take him seriously. Still, this isn’t all bad. Who needs school when you can learn about history first hand, like from Ben Franklin himself. And there’s this girl… Yvaine… another time traveler. All good. Except for the rules: boys only travel into the past and girls only into the future. And the baggage: Yvaine’s got a baby boy and more than her share of ex-boyfriends. Still, even if they screw up history — like accidentally let the founding father be killed — they can just time travel and fix it, right? But the future they return to is nothing like Charlie remembers. To set things right, he and his scrappy new girlfriend will have to race across the centuries, battling murderous machines from the future, jealous lovers, reluctant parents, and time itself.      

Reviewed by Tahlia Newland.

March 26, 2013

4 Stars

This excellent young adult historical fantasy is a great little action story and one that would appeal to teenage boys.

Charlie’s father has something important to tell him, but before he can, Charlie finds himself falling into a kind of wormhole after a mechanical man. He ends up travelling backwards in time to London in the 1700s, meets a girl and the adventures begin. They cause a timequake when they inadvertently get Ben Franklin killed before he goes to Philadelphia. This alters the course of history, so when Charlie tries to go back to his own time, 2011, he discovers a very different world. Slavery wasn’t abolished, the French Revolution never happened, the British Crown rules the USA and his mother doesn’t know him because she didn’t meet his father. There was no World War Two either, and clockwork has a much bigger place in the world.

The clock work is the problem. The tic tocs as Charlie calls the clockwork men, are trying to kill the time travellers and to manipulate time to swing in the clockwork direction. He’s not quite sure why, but his father is trying to work it out. We don’t know by the end of the book, but that gives us a reason to read the next one. In this book, Charlie has to work out how, or if, he can set history back on course again, but that means travelling back in time to save Ben’s life, and with those murderous tic tocs after them, it’s not a simple matter.

The rules Gavin builds around time traveling are complex. Women can only travel uptime and men can only travel downtime, so travellers tend to travel in pairs. Sometimes I wonder how Charlie’s father manages to get around time as well as he does given the further restrictions the author places on their activity. Some of the meetings seemed rather too much a matter of  chance for me.

‘Unarmed’ is well written with immediate prose, a streamlined plot, and a fast pace. It is also flawlessly edited and proofed. The descriptions of the different periods in history in America, China, France and London are very evocative, and the mix of a modern boy with a streetwise lass from old London is an interesting combination.

4 stars.

The Darkening Dream

Darkening Dream, The
Published: November 12, 2013
Author's Twitter: @asgavin
A young woman in 1913 New England struggles to keep her life and faith intact after her father inadvertently drags her into an ancient conspiracy involving a 900 year-old Vampire, a demon-loving Puritan Warlock, a disgruntled Egyptian god, and even the Archangel Gabriel.   Sarah’s life is a balancing act, juggling family tradition and college aspirations — rare enough in 1913 New England — but when she and her friends stumble upon a murder and the dead boy rises from the grave, things really get complicated. Family tradition, it turns out, is more than Friday night dinners. It also includes battling 900 year-old vampires, demon-loving puritan warlocks, and disgruntled Egyptian gods. Still, she never thought to be choosing between doing the right thing and her immortal soul.

Review by Tahlia Newland 

June 26, 2012

The Darkening Dream is billed as a dark fantasy, some of it borders on horror and I found some aspects of it a little perverse. It has teen protagonists, but don’t for a moment let that make you think that this is suitable for teens, it isn’t. If the author intends it for young adults, then he either needs to prune back the gratuitous sexual twists in some of the scenes or put a warning on the outside of the book. It’s not the sexual content itself that’s the problem; there isn’t a great deal of it and it isn’t explicit, it’s the way it’s stripped of tenderness and woven in with dark magic that makes it disturbing.

Now that little rant is over, let me say that it’s an extremely well written story with finely-drawn, easy to relate to characters. The story moves along at a good pace, with just enough light and shade to make it satisfying, and there’s an unexpected twist before a chilling end.

From the blurb: 1913, Salem, Massachusetts – Sarah Engelmann’s life is full of friends, books, and avoiding the pressure to choose a husband, until an ominous vision and the haunting call of an otherworldly trumpet shake her. When she stumbles across a gruesome corpse, she fears that her vision was more of a premonition. And when she sees the murdered boy moving through the crowd at an amusement park, Sarah is thrust into a dark battle she does not understand. With the help of Alex, a Greek immigrant who knows a startling amount about the undead, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth.

The vampire in this book isn’t one of the charming variety we have come to know. This guy is pure, gut-spewing evil, and so are the trio of disgruntled Egyptian gods and the demon-loving Puritan minister who are trying to find Gabriel’s Trumpet, the tool that will announce the End of Days. Sarah and her friends find themselves right in the middle of a nasty life-threatening game, and though Sarah’s father is a rabbi with the power of God on his side and Alex’s elderly grandfather is a vampire-hunter, both hide important secrets until the very end.

What I really liked about this book was the way Sarah’s father’s Jewish faith held power greater than that of the warlock. The warlock mentions that he is no match for the rabbi, because the warlock consorts with mere demons, while the rabbi has a deity on his side. It was refreshing to see the words and rituals of an ancient religion credited with the magical power that is its due.

The main fault in the book is that the characters are set in the wrong time frame. They simply do not act as teens would have acted in 1913. No daughter of a rabbi would have allowed a boy to climb into bed with her, and no decent boy would have attempted it. The girls’ fearlessness is also highly uncharacteristic of the time. Some may consider this an insignificant point, but it was a glaring glitch in an otherwise seemingly impeccably researched book, and I see no reason why the story couldn’t have been set in modern times which is where the characters belong.

The book was too dark for my taste, but I’m sure many people will love it and I recommend it for the Awesome Indies list.