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A Tale of Time City

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  4,362 ratings  ·  309 reviews
Time City — built far in the future on a patch of space outside time — holds the formidable task of overseeing history, yet it's starting to decay, crumble .... What does that say for the future of the world ... for the past ... for the present? Two Time City boys, determined to save it all, think they have the answer in Vivian Smith, a young Twenty Century girl whom they ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 1st 2002 by Greenwillow Books (first published 1987)
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3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,362 ratings  ·  309 reviews


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Jessica
Feb 08, 2008 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
...more
Nikki
Nov 30, 2012 rated it liked it
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...
Flora
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
...more
Kat!e Larson
I honestly don't know what my issue is with this book. It's an interesting story with pretty cool characters. But I found it mind-numbingly dull.

Perhaps I went in with too high of expectations, because Howl's Moving Castle is one of my favorite books. Perhaps I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. I really tried to like it. I kept reading, believing I would learn to appreciate it. I never did.

The world felt haphazard and half-explained. I kept feeling that, not only did the characters not r
...more
Deborah O'Carroll
I need a butter-pie ASAP. Also, Elio is the best! XD

Timey-wimey and brilliant. So glad I finally read this one!
Mark
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Lara Mi


"When your surname is Smith, you need to make very sure that everyone knows just which Smith you are."


At the beginning of WWII, Vivian Smith is on board an evacuee train when two boys decide to kidnap her right out of time. Jonathan and Sam are from Time City which exists outside of regular time and history. Time and the city itself have suffered from disturbances and the boys hope that the Time Lady can put things right again. Vivian soon finds that they thought her to be the Time Lady in dis
...more
Julie Davis
Dec 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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.

FINAL
I finished it but it wasn'
...more
Bethany
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
...more
Honya
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
Nente
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
What's the trick with Diana Wynne Jones? She was so prolific that quite a lot of her books necessarily fall below the highest standard, and several of them are quite formulaic - this is one - but I have now read at least 20 of her works and cannot say that I regret reading any, even those I 2-starred as "just ok".
Perhaps I'm touched by the way she sets up her universes. She never wastes much space worldbuilding, and frequently it all comes off as heavily underexplained, but all the time you feel
...more
Wealhtheow
Nov 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Nic
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Amber
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.
Nancy
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.
Cat M
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favourites. DWJ’s books had a huge influence on my reading tastes and I still reread my favourites often and find they’ve held up incredibly well.

Vivian Smith is a young evacuee leaving London at the beginning of WWII when, due to a case of mistaken identity, she is kidnapped out of time by Jonathan and Sam, two boys from “Time City.” Time City is a city positioned outside of time to make sure time runs as it should. Except Time City is falling apart and finding the person Jon
...more
TheBookSmugglers
Jul 23, 2012 rated it liked it
I am slowly working my way through Diana Wynne Jones’ books. A Tale of Time City was originally published in 1987 and reissued this year with an introduction by Ursula Le Guinn (alas, my copy is an old one) and I decided to read this one next because I am going through an I Love Time Travel phase.

Time City is a place built on a patch of time and space and for all intents and purposes, outside history. Its inhabitants are Guardians and Observers who have recently started to realise that Time City
...more
❄ Pixelflocke ❄
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
...more
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
...more
Angie
Jan 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Catherine Petrini
I have loved Diana Wynne Jones's books, and I expected to love this one, too. So I was surprised when I found it alternating between confusing and just plain dull. I liked the main characters, especially Sam; unfortunately, many of the adult characters are too dimwitted to be believable. The ideas here are interesting, but they are never fully developed, and the world building feels unfinished. We get a lot of detail on what things look like, and very little on how they work. The story is set up ...more
Amy
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
...more
Margaret
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
Amanda
Mar 29, 2011 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
...more
Mary-Beth
Jun 06, 2007 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
Alison
Jan 10, 2015 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.
Kaethe
Most of Jones' books have delighted me. This one was just "eh". maybe because I was sick, maybe because the cover was so bloody hideous and eye-damaging and stomach-churning. Hard to say, really. The book is better than this cover, but then, so are books I would never read because I loathe the idea behind them.

Library copy.
Bri
Aug 07, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010, fantasy, favorite, reread, uk, 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.
Gunnhildur Rúnarsdóttir
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I first read this when I was an exchange student in New Zealand. Since then I've read it several times.

I haven't read it recently so I can only say that as a 17 year old I really liked this book.
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Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an ed ...more
“When your surname is Smith, you need to make very sure everyone knows just which Smith you are.” 0 likes
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