Mystic Village, by author Gerald Boyden, is a story about time travel. It is also a tale of people changing their circumstances in order to live better lives. While this book is filled with dinosaurs, thieves, giant snakes and spiders, it also offers examples of kindness between strangers and the power individuals can gain by standing up for what they believe in.
Paul and Sylvia McBride are married academics who live in current day Coffeeville, Kansas. Paul is a physics professor who has transformed a minivan into a time machine. The Friday before the 4th of July, Paul decides to celebrate the completion of the time machine with champagne and a trip to the 1992 Olympics. In the midst of the journey, something goes wrong with the minivan/time machine that takes the McBrides farther back in time then they'd planned.
After a crash landing, the couple emerges from the vehicle into a world of grass huts and wigwams. They have landed in a small, primitive village governed by a wine-chugging King and his mild-tempered son, Prince Teel. Paul and Sylvia are taken to the king who quickly judges them to be trouble makers; possibly from the Land of Nur, the village's rivals. The King orders the McBrides to leave the next day or face punishment, but dangers that have continuously plagued the village keep the couple stranded until Paul can repair the time machine.
Boyden doesn't go into much depth in the development of his characters; however, there is a theme of charity that runs throughout the story. Both Paul and Sylvia offer humor as they navigate through their impossible situation. The language (outside of the scientific jargon that Paul uses to describe the components of his time machine) and the plot are both very simple. There are a few brief violent scenes, but they are not graphic. I would say that this book is appropriate for middle school-aged children and older. Boyden repeatedly opens scenes by stating that something "is revealed" and he underlines words to indicate emphasis instead of placing them in italics. Both techniques become increasingly distracting as the story advances.
Mystic Village takes the reader on a prehistoric journey through the science of time travel. Middle school-aged kids and old should get a kick out of this book. Some adults may also find it to be an interesting read.
Melissa Brown Levine
Independent Professional Book Reviewers