Review: The Golden Hour by Maiya Williams

Title (year): The Golden Hour (2004)

Genre: Adventure

Other important themes: Grief, Death of a parent, Time travel, History, Finding yourself, Siblings

Age (sex) of main character: 13 (male) with a sister, aged 11, and a pair of twin friends, a boy and girl, around 13

Estimated age of intended audience: 10 and up

Wholesome/edgy/realistic?: Realistic. Feelings are not shied away from, and there is grief and anger and confusion. But there are no extremes for extreme’s sake.

Narrative POV: Third-person subjective from a single POV

Writing quality: Very good. I could not put this book down. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. The basics of the story are fairly straightforward but it’s the quality of the writing that makes this such a page-turner.

Formulaic or surprising?: Definitely kept me wondering what would happen next, with some great twists and turns.

Comfort food/challenging?: Total comfort food, mostly because of the wonderful writing. The story just unfolds and carries you along.

Dark or Light? Endless struggle?: Pretty light. Some bad things happen to the young main characters, but in the end they have support and resources to help them through it.

Identify with: (people of color, disabled folks, respected elders, working class) The main character is white, but his traveling companions, a twin brother and sister, are described as “brown-skinned” with a Jamaican grandmother, and race is definitely acknowledged in the book. The next two books, The Hour of the Cobra and The Hour of the Outlaw, have the twins as their main characters. The author is herself a woman of color.

There is also a strong sense of the value of adults and particularly elders throughout the book. Adults are fallible like anyone else, but they are portrayed as helpful and supportive. This is not an “us against them,” kids vs. adults type adventure book.

Read this if you liked… I haven’t seen this mentioned in any of the reviews I’ve read, but to me this book was a direct descendent of the classic Edward Eager books from the 1950s such as The Time Garden, Half-Magic, and Knight’s Castle. I loved these books so much I read them again and again and bought them all off eBay so I could have the original illustrations of those early editions I’d read from the library. This book was like having another one of his to read.

Other favorites in this style that come to mind here are The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink and the Mushroom Planet books by Eleanor Cameron. Also A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, or any of her many series. Like L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, this might be a helpful book for someone processing grief, particularly the death of a parent.

Genre-bender? (recommended to ALL): Yes. If you would be at all inclined to read a book with such young characters, I really recommend it. If you never read middle-grade fiction it will probably seem too light, but even if you only liked Harry Potter, you will probably enjoy The Golden Hour!

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