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Every Second Counts to Save Time - an Editorial Review of "The Celtic Deception"

Book Blurb:

Every second counts in the fight to save all time.

Dan Renfrew hates that he’s a time jumper—seventeen-year-olds should not be stuck with the responsibility of saving history. But with no one else stepping up to stop Victor Stahl’s plot to take over the world, Dan and his time-jumping partner Sam have no choice but to jump back into history again. They land on the Celtic island of Anglesey in 60 CE, hoping to find answers on how to stop Victor. Their task isn’t easy. Everyone seems to be hiding something, from the druids who rule Anglesey to the Celts who take the time jumpers in. As two Roman legions—intent on wiping out everyone on the island—draw closer, time is running out for Dan and Sam.

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Author Bio:

I am a YA historical fiction author who takes great pains to ensure historical accuracy in my books, while still ensuring that I tell a great story. Although I enjoy reading and writing about all history, I have a particular fondness for European history from Greco-Roman times until the crusades.

I hope you enjoy my stories.

Editorial Review:

''We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of time is a miracle and a mystery.'' [H.G. Wells]

Every reader's embarkation onto a new work of fiction is a voyage; one that will require a complete suspension of belief until such time as the narrative skills of the author and the power of the book succeeds in beguiling the reader into a temporary state of surrender, and the acceptance of the new reality of the book for the period required to complete the reading of it. Rather subjectively and sweepingly, this is perhaps the simple definition of a good, indifferent or bad book! This has to be even more the case with a book that posits as its central theme, its core premise, the principle of time travel; and from the vantage point of time travellers themselves. Such books are like science fiction in that they require sufficient potency so as to lull the objections of rational readers from the very beginning and to maintain this for the entire duration of the book! This 'illusion' is a skill that H.G. Wells [quoted above] obviously possessed in abundance!

This is the task to which Andrew Varga has taken on in his book 'Celtic Deception' and in his previous book, ''The Last Saxon King'; both books being part of what is an ongoing series subtitled 'A Jump in Time'. There are in fact seven books in the series covering such varied subjects as the rise of the Mongols, Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War, Ancient Greece and the War against the Persians, Imperial Rome and the Crusades! His task is perhaps made easier in that his books are designed and written for 'the young reader' [age group 12 plus years]. As a subject area, such books on time travel come from a long and rich tradition and the seasoned reader will in all likelihood have encountered books of this ilk at some point in the past: either in childhood or adolescence; it is an honourable tradition. Varga seeks, he tells us, ''to provide young audiences a realistic portayal of history but also provide an entertaining story that would the reader's attention in a long-reaching arc.''

Dan Renfrew [son of Professor James Renfrew] is a strange and awkward and rather withdrawn sixteen year old boy when we first encounter him in Varga's first book. He has always been home taught by his eccentric seeming father, and with a particular and intense study in history and martial arts. ['all Renfrews have been educated this way'] As a consequence, he is particularly gifted in his knowledge of history, self defence and the use of antique weaponry. This, the reader discovers, will stand him in excellent stead in the very dangerous and exciting time to come! One day he comes home to discover his father embroiled in mortal combat with a stranger named Victor and in the course of which his father is stabbed. This is his first intimation that there exists a group of people gifted with the power of time travel and that he, Dan Renfrew, comes from a long and illustrious line of time travellers whose task and duty it is is to travel in time in order to repair 'time glitches' in the time stream that otherwise threaten to change all subsequent history, and not for the common good. He also discovers that, unfortunately, there also exists a sizeable group of whom the mysterious and evil Victor - presently a Congressman and destined to be the future President of the United States unless prevented - is one who uses this gift and ability in pursuit of power and wealth! Such is the premise of all the existing books of Varga. This time travel is achieved through the use of a 'jump stick' - a metallic object that resembles a large pencil or the baton of a relay race. As Victor and his father battle it out, he is urged to hold the rod and recite a very nonsensical rhyme by his father. ''azkabaleth virros ku, haztri valent bhidri du''. By this means he is first instantly transported back to England in the momentous year of 1066 and where the first person he encounters is Sam, a fellow time traveller and the heroine and partner of Dan. He is there to repair a very serious time glitch! An equally daunting time travel adventure awaits the pair in 'The Celtic Deception'. After another unpleasant encounter with Victor in 'real time', he contacts Sam who instructs him to be ready for another 'time jump'. When the call comes and 'the time rod' summons him he is prepared and ready, with appropriate clothes and supplies for the journey to wheresoever he is summoned. Dan 'jumps'. After the usual period of utter disorientation, he finds himself back on 'terra firma' but with no idea whatsoever of where on earth he is. Very soon, he is reunited in this strange and alien landscape with Sam - his fellow time traveller.

At this juncture it is necessary to point out that Varga is not, so to speak, writing his time travel adventures in a complete void. He displays, on the contrary, a deep and rich reservoir of actual knowledge of particular episodes in world history. He believes himself to be of Viking ancestry and has a degree in History. He also has the ability to read Old English poetry and has translated Beowulf' in its entirety. He has travelled extensively and owns a large collection of lethal medieval weaponry, and is proficient in the use of many of these! Varga is qualified to write of such a wide array of subjects. He can also, it needs to be said, capable of carrying off an exciting adventure story in the old classic style of a British ''ripping good yarn''.

Where, in fact, Dan and his companion Sam, of the red freckles and the flaming red hair [ a girl he admires and is physically attracted to] have landed is in the North Wales of the First Century C.E. and they are in the teeth of a gale of an invading army of two whole Legions of hard bitten and seasoned veteran warriors and their auxiliaries intent on the absolute conquest of the feared Druids on the island of 'Mona' {Anglesey]. Fleeing before them and also headed for the 'sacred isle' are hundreds of British Celtic refugees fleeing the wrath of Rome and seeking sanctuary on that same island. Somewhere in all this mess is the 'time glitch' they have been summoned to repair! Somewhere also ahead of them is a fellow time traveller, stranded for a whole seventeen years, and the architect and creator of this deliberate glitch in time. One of the benefits of possessing a 'jump rod' is to enable its holder to understand and speak any language fluently and so, having fallen in with a group of refugee Celts, Sam and Dan, now known as Genovefa and, rather unimaginatively, Asterix, are able to incorporate into this group smoothly and cross the highly dangerous and treacherous straits to the Island of the Druids and where they encounter the deliberate creator of this time glitch; a man whom Sam dislikes and distrusts on sight! This is an elderly and limping Druid named Cenacus, formerly known as William Anderson. He unexpectedly addresses them in perfect modern English. By the terms of this book, his explanation is simple and straightforward enough. With a time travelling companion, he had travelled back to Britain, landing in the year 43 C.E., to investigate a supposed time glitch. His partner, infected by the evil of power and riches of the group that includes the evil Victor, attacks Anderson/Cenacus, leaving him for dead and stealing his time travel device. Marooned for seventeen years, Anderson/Cenacus studies the magic secrets of the Druids, thus becoming a Druid himself. By the time that Dan and Sam arrive, Cenacus is more than aware of the doom and massacre that is about to overwhelm them all in the form of the approaching power of Rome and had resolved to create a time glitch of his own in the hope of summoning help by the lure of the time glitch. Accordingly, he melts down a collection of gold coins and reforms this into a golden tablet upon which he has inscribed the names and dates of every British Ruler up to modern times and had this buried on the island. This is thus the explanation of Dan and Sam's arrival in this particular time and place; an island off the coast of North Wales in the year 61 C.E.! As Cenacus explains:

''Don't you get it, kid? In the wrong hands, that information would completely alter the course of history! Any ruler would know who'd succeed him, so this tablet would lead to assassinations or battles never happening. We're talking about the complete re-writing of the Roman line of Emperors or the English succession of Kings. This tablet is the biggest time glitch ever!''

Thus the decision is made! Sam will go in search of the golden tablet and destroy it whilst Dan must take command of the unruly rabble of brave but hopelessly disorganised Celtic warriors on the island and hold up the advancing Romans and create as much havoc as he might so as to buy Sam as much time as possible; she having been shown how to make adjustments to the all powerful time rod to assist her in her search, though ultimate defeat, death and slavery, they all know, is inevitable. So there the reader has it! Dan must persuade the unruly and passionate Celts to accept him as their war leader. The story romps and rolls along. Dan is propositioned and made to feel uncomfortable by the pragmatic but romantically inclined Senna, the beautiful wife of Atto, a Celt who has befriended them, he is lured into boisterous drinking bouts by Atto, finally receives authority and permission to mount a defence of sorts and leads a desperate last ditch resistance to the Romans and their dangerous auxiliary cavalry - the Batavians. He devises crude and homemade catapults of a medieval type [thus running the danger of creating a time glitch of his own] whilst Sam, on her own, searches the island for the dangerous gold tablet in order to destroy it. Dan is betrayed and drugged by Cenacus, who steals his 'time rod' and is then sold into Roman slavery before being liberated by a group of vengeful Celtic widows. The incidents and events pile one upon the other. Throughout the rather breathless narrative and as one incident piles upon the other before the resolution of the entire story that contains both tragic news and a triumphant resolution, Varga pauses to provide the reader with vignettes of life amongst the Celts as he sees it. Here, for example, is the summons of the displaced Celts to a summons of war by the feared and respected Druids:

''A small stone altar stood just before the grove and beside it a huge stack of wood ready for a bonfire. The Druids stood in a perfectly spread circle around the altar, their torches held out in front of them with both hands. A single Druid stood behind the altar. His hood was pulled up, keeping his face in shadow, but a huge gold medallion hanging around his neck glinted in the torchlight.''

Varga undeniably tells a dramatic and improbable tale successfully, leaving Dan and Sam, now glowing with mutual affection and physical attraction. If adults might occasionally pause at at the naivety of the descriptions of events or of passages of dialogue, then they should pause and reflect on the age range at which this story is directed and cast their minds back to the books of their own adolescence that inspired and moved them then. Perhaps at this stage it might be as well to refer once more to the words of H.G. Wells:

''We all have time machines. Those that take us back are memories and those that carry us forward, are dreams.''


The Celtic Deception” by Andrew Varga receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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