Changing Yesterday, by Sean McMullen

A prince was coming to Albury. He would not be there long; in fact, he would just be passing through, but he was heir to the British throne. One day he would become the most powerful king in the entire world. Nobody so important had ever visited Albury, so everyone wanted the town to look its best.

The last day of May 1901 was like the end of any other school week for Daniel Lang. He was in his second-last year at an expensive private school, and life was going very well for him. For the first time in his life he had acquired a sweetheart in the form of Muriel Baker, a beautiful classmate of his sister’s. For Daniel, this was even better than getting a medal. Muriel knew that Daniel was a hero, and for Daniel her opinion was the only one that mattered.

Changing Yesterday is set in 1901, but main character Liore has come to Melbourne and Victoria from a century in the future, determined to change history. Her co-conspirators are variously motivated but necessary to help her achieve her goal. But it seems that each time they alter the events that lead the 100 Year War, chance and Lionhearts conspire to find another way to ensure the war happens. So begins a race across Australia and beyond to Europe – a cat and mouse chase that has the protagonists jumping on and off ships, changing gender, arming and disarming fellow travellers and various weapons and just generally causing chaos. None of these diversions are listed in any of the ocean liner brochures! There’s a boy, a girl, a thief, some plotters and some work-for-whoever-pays extras. There’s adventure, fighting, flights, love, hate, pick-pocketing and lock-picking. And there’s plenty more besides.

Changing Yesterday is a riot. It’s high camp adventure and penny-dreadful pulp romance. It’s egads-melodrama with high tech weapons. Lead character Daniel is a mere schoolboy when he participates in history-altering espionage, his ideas noble and pure. His friend, Barry (the bag) has his eye on a different prize although he convinces himself of similarly pure ideals. Liore, a girl who masquerades mostly as a boy, has a mission. The action of others is often off stage (as it were) and it is the consequences that affect Daniel, Liore and a detective-in-waiting. The stakes are high – the fate of the world is dependent on their success. Most of the characters grow and mature across the novel – but not all. A few remain resolutely bad, or just plain incorrigible. There are of course, steam engines. Plenty of them. Changing Yesterday is the sequel to Before the Storm and the way forward has been flagged. It also reads well as a stand-alone novel. Recommended for early secondary readers and beyond.

Changing Yesterday

Changing Yesterday, Sean McMullen
Ford St Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921665370

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.