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A Tale of Time City

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,634 Ratings  ·  245 Reviews

Time City is built on a patch of time and space outside history. It is full of wonders and haunted by "time ghosts," but it is nearly worn out and doomed to destruction.

In September 1939, Vivian Smith is on a train, being evacuated from London, when she is kidnapped by two boys from Time City, Jonathan and Sam. They mistakenly think she is the mysterious Time Lady disguise

Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 12th 2012 by Firebird (first published 1987)
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Mar 27, 2011 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kids
Recommended to Jessica by: uncle harold
This is the first Diana Wynne Jones book I ever read. My uncle Harold gave it to me one year for Christmas. It probably changed my life, though I'd be hard pressed to say exactly how.


The above is an old review. Having just heard that Diana Wynne Jones has passed away, I've come back to press myself harder to say exactly how her book changed my life. I'd like to apologize in advance for my overwrought and melodramatic language; I have a giant hangover, and am in a highly emotional state.

I was
A Tale of Time City is many things: utterly confusing, fantastically imaginative, highly intelligent and unexpectedly complex. Above all, however, it is entertaining.

This book precedes the Harry Potter series, but while reading it you really wonder if JK Rowling was perhaps a Diana Wynne Jones fan. I instantly get a familiar feeling with the way Jones describes her magic - so belonging, logical, rational and wonderfully. Beside that, there's other things - people walking through walls at train s
As usual, Diana Wynne Jones' imagination runs rampant, giving us a fun adventure with lots of amazing ideas packed in. I want to know what a butter pie tastes like, more than anything, but all of it was interesting and had me trying to puzzle it all out.

It wasn't surprising in any way, to me anyway, because it somehow seemed very typical of Diana Wynne Jones. But it was fun, and hooked me in well.

Not my favourite of her books so far, but that would be difficult to decide anyway...
Jan 17, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful children's time travel book. One of the things I like best about Diana Wynne Jones is how her children are children and adults are adults. What do I mean by that? First, children are not adults. They can't do everything an adult might do. They can't win a sword fight with an ogre. But they are still competent - they might trick the ogre or sneak past the ogre. (It has been a while so I don't remember an example from this book.) Second, adults are adults. In too many YA books the adults ...more
Jul 06, 2015 Honya rated it it was amazing
I love stories about time travel, and I absolutely adore Diana Wynne Jones’s writing, so I suppose I was pretty much fated to enjoy A Tale of Time City. It’s wonderful! And I don’t just mean that in the sense of it’s being “great” or “amazing”–it’s full of all sorts of wonders that surprise the reader at every turn. If I could do so and return safely home, I would love to get to tour Time City myself. I’d love to meet Vivian, too. She’s the perfect balance of a credible but remarkably spunky gir ...more
Rated PG.

That. Was. AWESOME.

For the record, I have never cared about historical dates before this book. Now I actually remember the year that WWII started--and if I learned nothing else from reading A Tale of Time City, this alone would make it SO WORTH IT.

Also, this came highly recommended by some of my favorite authors, including Maggie Stiefvater. If you don't know Stiefvater's work, you need to read The Scorpio Races. As fabulous as that book is, though, Stiefvater acknowledged that she wa
"If you call me V.S. once again," she said, "I shall scream - I warn you!"
Sam patted her arm. "You need a butter-pie," he said kindly.

A Tale of Time City is no doubtly one of Diana Jones best works including the Homeward Bounders and probably also my favourites from her.

In this beautiful, imaginary world history is mixed up with distant worlds/times, time travelling, adventure and great humour.

We get to meet Vivian Smith who is from the 20th Century and Jonathan and Sam Lee who are from Time Ci
In preparation for German bombing, children are evacuated from London. Vivian Smith is discontentedly waiting to be picked up by her unknown cousin Marty when an older boy commands her to follow him. Moments later, she finds herself in a strange plastic&metal room. Vivian has been kidnapped through time and space to Time City! Her kidnappers, Sam and Jonathan, are positive that she's the Time Lady who is destroying temporal reality and Time City itself. Vivian, of course, has no clue what th ...more
Julie Davis
All the other Diana Wynne Jones books I've read until now were the favorites of a pal who did me the great service of lending them so I could get hooked. This one looked interesting but it has taken me a while to get into the story. About halfway through I am finally warmed up to it and love some of the concepts ... such as the kids who live in Time City but are fascinated by what it is like "in history" when they're quizzing the heroine about WWII and 1938 London.

I finished it but it wasn'
Mar 18, 2016 Nancy rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed-library
This is a young adult book and it's a fun book to read for any age. This book would be appropriate to readers as young as 10. This is a fun time travel story of kids being kids and wanting to help the grown ups, on their own and without permission of course.
I enjoyed this book much more when I read it 10 years or so ago. It does start off nicely with 3 children time traveling, trying to save Time City, and eating butter pies. But by the end I didn't care so much about who was trying to steal the time caskets and whether or not the kids would save Time City. Everything sort of frantically piled up at the end with confusing action scenes that I had to make myself keep reading. I guess I just wasn't in the mood.

Maybe I just shouldn't re-read books I o
Jun 24, 2012 Nic rated it really liked it
Can't believe it took me so long to get hold of this one! It is, of course, very good. I love that we keep seeing the children who are evacuated from London, and there's so much detail about what it's like to be one of them on a hot train carrying a gas mask and going to live with people you've never met. DWJ was evacuated herself during the war, so this all rings incredibly true.

Also, who but she could write a scene with three separate people named Vivian in one room and make it not only clear
This is my absolute favourite Diana Wynne Jones book, which is saying a lot because I adore DWJ. But this one always caught me and held me and has me rereading it regularly to this day (and I plan to continue doing so). I couldn't tell you precisely what makes this one beat out Archer's Goon or Howl's Moving Castle or Cart and Cwidder or A Sudden Wild Magic or... But it is my favourite. I highly recommend it for ANY age.
3 1/2 Sterne!
Endlich habe ich das Buch durchgelesen (nach 2 gescheiterten Versuchen im Sommer und nun 5 langen Abenden im Herbst)! Streckenweise fühlte sich es schon fast wie ein Stück harte Arbeit an. Aber ich denke es lag nicht allzu sehr am Buch selbst, als vielmehr an meiner momentanen Lesestimmung.
Im Großen und Ganzen hat mir die Geschichte sehr gut gefallen, ich mochte die Charaktere unheimlich gern und auch die Idee von Time City, einer Stadt außerhalb von Geschichte und Zeit, gefiel mir
Brandy Painter
Originally posted at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

I will write it again: Diana Wynne Jones is a genius. Really was there any limitation on what she could write? Her ability to bring to life all manner of ideas from her most amazing mind leaves me awestruck. A Tale of Time City, I confess, is not my favorite of her books. Still. Saying one of her books doesn't live up to its fellows still puts it above almost everything else out there.

Some of my aloofness toward this book may come from my love
WWII evacuee Vivian Smith is shocked when she is unceremoniously kidnapped from a railway station by two boys and taken to Time City. There she learns that although the city was built in order to keep history moving along as it should, something seems to be going wrong, and the boys, Jonathan and Sam, have mistaken her for the mysterious Time Lady, who they think can fix the problems. The plot is on the convoluted side, involving multiple time travel trips, but Jones keeps it moving along with a ...more
Mar 29, 2011 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've often heard of Jones and was not aware that i had even read any of her books. I'd always planned on reading one though. Anyway, I just came across this book and recognized the name and then found this, the exact same edition i had as a child. I don't remember much about the story but i do remember i loved it at the time. So, i guess i have read one of her books and now i'm intrigued to revisit her writing.

So sad, I just went to see her author's page and saw that she passed away just a few
Jun 06, 2007 Mary-Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating sci-fi novel in which a young girl is mistakenly abducted as she is being evacuated into the country in England at the beginning of World War II. She is kidnapped by two young men who believe that she is an ageless woman responsible for the collapse of Time City, a city anchored apart from history and filled with only the brightest intellectuals of all ages. Be introduced to intriguing ideas like time locks, time ghosts and the strange mythology of the City as the children try to k ...more
Nathan Aronheim
Apr 16, 2016 Nathan Aronheim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended for ages 8-13 especially, but I still enjoy rereading this book every few years.

One of the first Diana Wynne Jones books I read and one of the best. She tells a damn good story, but while she's doing that, in her best books she also teaches empathy by taking real life issues, making them grander and less controversial by moving them to a foreign setting, and gives us new perspectives. Reading her books has made me a more understanding person. Time City is a great example.

Time City li
Angela Tuson
Sep 13, 2015 Angela Tuson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Diana Wynne Jones is rapidly turning into the MOST fascinating writer I've read. Her characters are completely engaging yet believable, the way people are at a party who you find compellingly attractive and slightly nerve-wracking at the same time. Her plots move from strange to enthralling. I always find that once I'm 'into' one of her books, I can't jump out, or do much at all, except exist happily intruiged in that bubble until the book's end.

This one is about time travel; the best time trave
Jan 22, 2015 Angie rated it liked it
I think I'm starting to see the pattern in Wynne Jone's books where the main character goes on a quest, meets lots of people who provide loads of information that only serves to confuse her/him, and only after we've run out of people to meet does the solution to the mystery present itself.

Patterns notwithstanding, she tells a great story. I'm currently on a quest to reread all the books, so I know I'm reading through them too fast and am sure I am missing things. This is one I'll need to reread
Mar 19, 2015 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was remarkably wonderful. I inhaled it in several days; the pace is crackling and compelling. There are some flaws - the ending is rushed, and there are leaps of logic you just have to ignore - but despite these it was original and fascinating, and ridiculous in all the best ways. I would rather like a butter-pie now, too.

Note: the kindle edition was full of typos - distracting and annoying. I would not recommend that version.
Something makes me want to write "this is a spiffing tale", that's because the opening pages have a touch of the Abbey School girls and countless other school girl stories from my childhood, but it quickly develops into something more exciting and strange. So, what to say. In many ways it feels like a transition between Asimov's End of Eternity (written before it) and Garth Nix's Keys of the Kingdom series (written later) but it is also very much an original story with the same sort of quirkines ...more
Anthony Burt
This was a great concept for a children's book, but it could have been so much better. It's only the second Diana Wynne Jones book I've read, but sadly this will be the last as I couldn't finish A Tale of Time City because it lost its pace, character motivation and depth after about page 180.

About a girl called Vivian who lives in war-time Britain, but is kidnapped to a secret place called Time City, this tale is about Vivian discovering who she is, what Time City does and retrieving "polarity"
Jan 12, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine Dorothy Gale kidnaped by two kids and taken to the Emerald City where the person in charge (father of one of the kidnappers) is The Mad Hatter. Time City exists outside of normal time. The Time City folks are in charge of seeing that history unfolds according to the history books. They don't start or stop wars or plagues or natural disasters. They get upset when World War 2 starts "too soon" or when new weapons are invented "too soon." Otherwise, the Time City people sell technology to v ...more
Emily Craven
This is one of my favourite books and upon rereading it recently I thought 'I must write a review!' The setting of this book is just magic, a city set outside time which is slowly falling apart and a young girl from war torn London dumped in the middle of the puzzle. The children are contrary but endearing characters who lead you through this mystery that the adults are flatly ignoring. As in all Diana Wynne Jones novels the adults are bonkers and at times clueless as many adults we know in our ...more
Jan 31, 2014 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Teaser Summary: Vivian Smith is simply on the train to the countryside, with all of the other children being evacuated from England during the WWII air raids. Vivian Smith is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her relative, when she is the victim of mistaken identity. A young time-traveling boy kidnaps her, thinking that Vivian is the cause of Time City's (a city outside of time) deterioration. Vivian then must help her new friends stop time from becoming chaotic, if she ever wants to get home to ...more
Mar 18, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, reread, uk, favorite, 2010, 2014
This was the first DWJ book I ever read -- back in 5th grade? -- and it has been a favorite/comfort read ever since and has made me seriously consider how to fabricate my own goluptuous butter-pies.

I've lost track of how many times I've re-read it.
Jan 04, 2013 Bri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
'A Tale of Time City' is another imaginative and entertaining book from the acclaimed queen of the fantastic, Diana Wynne Jones. It is hard not to find yourself bewitched by the book's charm and not to notice many aspects that, for example, J.K. Rowling herself was probably influenced by.

It seems to me that Wynne Jones, as an author of fantasy fiction, had once discovered the magic ingredients for the appeal and sense of wonder and mystery that is so inherent in all her works. An example is the
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Time Travel: A Tale of Time City: March 2016 84 48 Apr 03, 2016 08:41PM  
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Diana Wynne Jones was the author of more than thirty critically acclaimed fantasy stories, including the Chrestomanci series and the novels Howl's Moving Castle and Dark Lord of Derkholm.

For Diana Wynne Jones's official autobiography, please see
More about Diana Wynne Jones...

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