Three young siblings find themselves transported back in time to the 1453 fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in the first entry in Davies’ YA saga.
The world-traveled Bailey children—17-year-old James, his younger sister, Kelly, and their little brother, Ian—reluctantly move from the Netherlands to humdrum Wilton, Vermont. While living on the estate of their eccentric, recently declared dead uncle, Dr. James Bailey, the children discover a hidden room and a series of ink drawings by the relatively unknown artist Peter de Oppasser. Upon examining one entitled Constantinople, May 24, 1453, the three siblings are transported to the Byzantine Empire of the 15th century, just days before it’s to be conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Using Kelly’s extensive knowledge of history (often delivered in Mr. Peabody & Sherman–esque exposition dumps), Ian’s sharp memory for convenient trivia, and all three kids’ understanding of Greek language and customs, they begin looking for a way back home before they’re caught in the coming pillage. James knows that he must get his brother and sister to safety, yet a seemingly chance encounter with an alluring girl named Adara strikes him as more than a teenage crush; he’s unsure that he can take her with them but also knows that he cannot leave her behind. The novel has all the hallmarks of good historical fiction—it clearly represents the unique foods of the era and region, along with explanations of the local dress, religion, and other customs. The book excels at the little details, from the strange anachronisms surrounding Peter de Oppasser to the rich history of Varangians, the emperor’s elite guard. However, the presence of so much information sometimes works to the novel’s detriment, lessening the urgency of the situations the children face. Small, unsolved mysteries appear throughout the book, hinting at the actual fate of their uncle, a missing object of great power, and even Adara’s true purpose, setting the stage for further volumes without distracting from the main story.
Despite some pacing issues, a promising start to a new series.