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A Tale of Time City

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  4,777 ratings  ·  351 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, 334 pages
Published April 12th 2012 by Firebird (first published September 1987)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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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 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 just ex
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
Kat!e Larson
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
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...
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!
Jan 17, 2012 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
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
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
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
Jul 06, 2015 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
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'
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
It might be aimed more at the YA market, but I still really enjoyed it. A good story, well written and fast paced from start to finish. A great "time travel" book. ...more
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
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
Jan 22, 2015 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
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 they'r ...more
Jun 24, 2012 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
Hadas Sloin
I've decided to read "A Tale of Time City" since I loved "Howl's Moving Castle" and wanted to read more by Diana Wynne Jones. Sadly, "A tale of Time City" just didn't do it for me.
There were points I loved about the book - the time city itself was imaginative, exciting, and full of interesting details. Moreover, I loved the small absurd and comic points in the book, in which Vivian understands how stupid adults (and children) can be.
However, something just didn't work for me. I didn't like the h
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. ...more
Robin Stevens
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant sci-fi/fantasy story about a city out of time and three children, one who's been kidnapped from her home in World War II, who have to save it from destruction (8+)

*Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. If you use it in any marketing material, online or anywhere on a published book without asking permission from me first, I will ask you to remove that use immediately. Thank you!*
Kaethe Douglas
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.
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. ...more
She would have objected if she had not at that moment bitten into the butter-pie. Wonderful tastes filled her mouth, everything buttery and creamy she had ever tasted, with just a hint of toffee, and twenty other even better tastes she had never met before, all of it icy cold.
But at that moment she bit through into the middle of the butter-pie. And it was hot. Runny, syrupy hot.
goluptuous when you get to the warm part, isn't it?" Sam said, watching her with keen attention. "You want to
Cat M
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
Feb 05, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t enjoy this as much as other Diana Wynne Jones books. The plot was too convoluted for my liking. I liked the characters, but I don’t think I’ll remember them for long. The butter-pies, though, will haunt my imagination for the foreseeable future. I wish more fantasy authors would create delectable foods as part of their world-building.

“Wonderful tastes filled her mouth, everything buttery and creamy she had ever tasted, with just a hint of toffee, and twenty other even better tastes she
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite authors. I like the stories she writes, with clever characters who are interesting beings and meet challenges head on. They don’t whimper in the corner and cry; they dust themselves off and keep trying to figure out how to fix the problems. Vivian is the perfect example of this. Not only does she get kidnapped, but she time travels to a point where she knows nothing. Instead of sitting around and not doing anything, she realizes that she might as well try ...more
Kellynn Wee
I love a DWJ and I remember loving this book reading it growing up, but on reread I felt like I there was something about this that I couldn't quite... grasp. I couldn't quite picture Time City; the names of every building were confusing and a little off-putting; the scifi was... odd; the time-travel weirdly conceived. And the main characters I also found difficult to understand, emphatise with, or grasp. It felt almost more like an outline of a book than a book. It was just oddly structured; th ...more
Mar 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And it seemed to be true that all your life came flooding into you mind in your last moments. She thought of Mum and Dad and London and the War and Time City, and she wanted to shout at Mr Lee, Wait, I haven't thought of everything yet!

Time certainly does play tricks on you; in my case I was certain I'd read this fantasy when I acquired it a decade and a half ago, but now that I've finished it very little seems familiar other than the initial premise. In a way, however, that's quite appropriate
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist
My battered library copy has an introduction by Ursula K. Le Guin, who says this about DWJ, the Queen of Fantasy: "DWJ knows how to tell a story." This is the plain, hard truth. DWJ has a strong innate sense of storytelling, and this is a beautiful and complex novel. First published in 1987, it's still magical today, because it has exactly what any good story needs: brilliant rules about fantasy that DWJ sticks to, moral honesty, and a delicate plot brimming with history (literally) that ties to ...more
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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

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