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Book Review

This time travel book is the third book in " The Gideon Trilogy" by Linda Buckley-Archer and is published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

The Time Quake is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In book one, 12-year-olds Kate Dyer and Peter Schock accidentally activate a time machine Kate's dad (Dr. Dyer) and other NASA scientists are developing. The kids are transported to 1763, where they meet a thief-turned-gentleman named Gideon and a villain known as the Tar Man (or Blueskin). Dr. Dyer rescues Kate using a second time machine, but he accidentally brings the Tar Man and a teen named Tom to the 21st century while stranding Peter in the past.

In the second book, Peter's father and Kate travel to the 18th century to find Peter, but they arrive at a time when he's already grown up. They cannot get back to their time because the time machine breaks. With the help of a French scientist, the Marquis de Montfaron, they fix the machine and return to the present (bringing the Marquis as a tourist). Meanwhile, Dr. Dyer has rescued 12-year-old Peter with a second time machine. A short-lived reunion takes place at the Dyer home, before the Tar Man kidnaps Kate and Peter, along with both time machines, and sends the kids and himself back to the 1700s. Lord Luxon, the Tar Man's former master, promptly steals one of the time machines.

Book three tells of the strange phenomena on earth due to the "splintering" of time caused by so much time travel. Ghosts appear and portions of the landscape sometimes blur. Kate is losing her strength and literally fading, at times fast-forwarding into the future or inadvertently causing time to stop for everyone but herself.

Lord Luxon and his army of red coats have taken up residence in 21st century Manhattan, where Luxon seeks out a historian (Alice) and interrogates her about the American Revolution. Armed with her hindsight analysis of Britain's failure, Luxon returns to the past to ensure England never loses control of the New World. By killing George Washington, he hopes to earn his family's respect and a heroic name in history.

In modern-day England, Tom and Anjali (the Tar Man's 21st century guide in book two), visit Dr. Dyer, hoping he can send Tom home. The police inspector receives a call from Alice, who has read about Dr. Dyer's time machine and suspects Lord Luxon may be from another century. The inspector, the Marquis and Tom fly to America, and Alice directs them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she arranges to meet Lord Luxon. When Luxon discovers he's being investigated, he pushes the Marquis over a balcony to his death and escapes. Once Luxon has gone back and shot George Washington, he returns to the 21st century to see what it's like without a free America.

Meanwhile in 1763, Peter, Kate and Gideon (along with Gideon's servant, Hannah, and his friends Parson Ledbury and Sir Richard) track the Tar Man to reclaim the time machine. Gideon struggles to accept a revelation that the Tar Man is his older brother, but when Kate and the Tar Man strike a deal that will allow them and Peter to return to the 21st century, Gideon accompanies the Tar Man on a journey to retrieve the machine. The Tar Man has hidden it on Luxon's property, and Kate, Peter, Gideon and the Tar Man use it to return to modern England.

Kate, Peter, Gideon and the Tar Man (and, separately, Lord Luxon) all find themselves in the 21st century on Luxon's property. It is now a sprawling museum. At first, Luxon is pleased with his legacy, until a tour guide explains that the home's owner was later held in contempt by family and acquaintances and died unhappily. Luxon sees Gideon and tries to kill him before Kate accidentally stops time again and then disappears (along with Luxon). Gideon, Peter and the Tar Man realize their only chance to retrieve Kate and undo all of the cracks in time is to travel back to a moment before the first time travel incident. They successfully prevent Peter and Kate from ever going to Dr. Dyer's lab or near a time machine. Gideon and the Tar Man alone remember what they've seen, and the universe returns to normal.

Christian Beliefs

Kate believes Peter is her guardian angel because only he can help her reawaken the world after one of her time-stopping episodes. Gideon and other 18th-century characters use phrases such as, "Lord be praised," "God go with you," "Lord knows" and "Lord preserve us." Since Gideon escaped his hanging at the last moment (in book one), some said he was rescued by angels. Gideon silently prays the Tar Man won't hurt Sir Richard. Hannah and the Parson sing hymns when they think the world is ending.

The Parson quotes Scripture (which Gideon later repeats) about each day having enough troubles of its own. Sensing Kate's fears, the Parson asks if he can pray with her. He takes her hand and asks God to give her strength, wisdom and courage to handle the challenges ahead. Peter, pretending to be asleep during the prayer, fervently hopes someone up there is listening.

Other Belief Systems

The Parson asks if Gideon's luck has improved. Kate's dad has told her that humans and apes share a common ancestor. A sixth sense leads Kate to feel dread just before the Tar Man captures her, and Alice's aunt, led by a sixth sense, calls Alice to see if she's OK after her meeting with Lord Luxon. Luxon says a man he knew in the 1700s had the luck of the Devil. Kate sometimes feels like a sorceress has come through the world and changed everything to stone.

A fortune-teller at the fair says Kate is the oracle that has haunted her dreams. She says she can see that Kate has great power, and that Peter is meant to be Kate's guardian. She also reads Gideon's palm, confirming he is the Tar Man's brother and telling him to take care of Peter. Kate senses other events with a sixth sense and doesn't doubt the truth of her visions, often remembering the fortune-teller's predictions about her. She tells Peter she has seen his future. The Marquis says he will submit blindly to whatever fate has in store for him. He says he is profoundly shaken as he starts to learn about the research of Charles Darwin.

The Tar Man says he will go back in time and be his own guardian angel since Fortune didn't see fit to give him one. Gideon swears by all the gods that he will shoot the Tar Man if he doesn't drop his pistol. Dr. Dyer theorizes that gravity, left to its own devices, would reverse the expansion of the universe and squeeze everything down to a single point where time would stop. Anjali says if she got stuck in the past, she'd probably be burned as a witch.

When Kate touches the Tar Man, it sets off a reaction "like a witch's spell," and the Tar Man later calls Kate a witch. The Parson realizes with a sixth sense that Kate is watching him.

Authority Roles

Scientists and time machine creators Dr. Dyer and Dr. Pirretti struggle to make moral and ethical choices concerning their use of and revelations to the world about time travel. Gideon and his servant, Hannah, lovingly protect and care for Kate and Peter. Lord Luxon uses and manipulates his people, as well as Alice, to help him achieve personal glory. He kills those who stand in his way, including one of his officers and the Marquis. The Marquis is an inquisitive man of science who balances his desire for knowledge with ethical considerations. With compassion, he offers sage words to Kate's brother, Sam, and others in difficult moments.


Lord Luxon uses the word d--n, and he and his sergeant discuss a dog, calling her a b--ch. The Tar Man uses the expression G--'s teeth and says he doesn't care if Kate and Peter survive or rot in h---; both he and Luxon say D--- your eyes. Dr. Dyer says h--- is going to break loose, and when the Tar Man sees one of the cracks in time, he feels Kate is trying to pull him into h---. Sam uses the word heck.

Wielding his knife, the Tar Man threatens to cut off Kate's fingers if she doesn't give him the code that activates the time machine. Anjali recalls how, in present-day London, Tom had been thrown down a staircase and cracked his head open. Kate says she hopes Gideon will beat the Tar Man to a bloody pulp. Lord Luxon's sargeant tells him about some of the unpleasant things he's seen in battle, including bloody footprints in the snow, frostbite and gangrene (which, he says, has the stink of h--- about it). Gideon says he once saw a man's hand blown off because a pistol wasn't used properly.

The Tar Man injures the Parson, jabs a dagger into Sir Richard's neck and slits an unnamed man's throat from ear to ear in a marketplace. In each case, the text provides grotesque images like fountains of blood spurting and oozing. The Tar Man also yanks Sir Richard's arm out of its socket, and Sir Richard screams in excruciating agony.

Lord Luxon pushes the Marquis from a balcony, and he falls with a sickening thud and dies. Luxon shoots Sergeant Thomas and his dog when the soldier fails to kill George Washington.


Kate thanks Gideon for helping her by giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. Peter and Kate sleep tied together on a mattress one night because if Kate lets go of Peter, time will stop for everyone but her. They sleep in long nightshirts and no inappropriate behavior is indicated.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • Why does the Tar Man criticize Tom for letting sentiments rule his actions?
  • Why does the Tar Man try so hard not to make any decisions based on his emotions?
  • How does he change throughout the book?
  • What are some of the situations or people that help bring about that transformation?

  • When the Marquis damages the Dyer's wall, what does Sam say he'll do to cover for him?

  • How does the Marquis respond?
  • Do you agree with him, that one untruth invariably leads to another?
  • Can you think of a time you've seen this happen in your own life or one of your friends' lives?

  • What does the Marquis think is the greatest, most important thing in the world?

  • Do you think knowledge is a human's most valuable asset? Explain your answer.
  • When is knowledge important?
  • When and how can it be dangerous or harmful, as Dr. Pirretti suggests with regard to time travel?
  • How did the Marquis approach his quest for knowledge?

  • How is Sam impacted by Kate's disappearance?

  • Why is he so angry and frightened?
  • What does the Marquis say to him about the past and the future?
  • What about the future frightens you or makes you nervous?
  • How can you manage your concerns about the future and not become paralyzed by fear?

  • According to Dr. Dyer's theory, gravity on its own would reverse the expansion of the universe and squeeze everything down to a single point where time would stop.

  • What do you think about this theory?
  • How does it agree or disagree with what you believe about the universe?
  • Do you think there could be parallel worlds, as the scientists in the book suggest?

  • Inspector Wheeler and the Marquis discuss living in a time where information is readily available vs. living in a period where people are largely ignorant of current events.

  • Which would you prefer?
  • What would be the advantages and disadvantages of each?
  • Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the information available to you through the media, the Internet, etc.? Why or why not?

  • If you, like Lord Luxon, could change the past to make it exactly what you wanted it to be, what would you change? Why?

  • What might be the results of those changes to the lives of others?
  • Do you believe life is a random series of events, or that the events that happen are orchestrated by a Higher Power?

  • Does the future Lord Luxon creates for himself turn out to be everything he dreamed?

  • What happens to his future self?
  • How does Luxon feel when he visits the future and learns about the legacy he has left?
  • Does he ever gain the honor he so desperately wants from his family and comrades in arms? Why or why not?

  • Which of her father's words does Kate remember as she tries to save Peter from Lord Luxon?

  • Is that good advice, to trust yourself and rely on your own intelligence and judgment? Why or why not?
  • Where else can you get wisdom and help when you're faced with a difficult situation?

  • As the book closes, what does Gideon say to the Tar Man about changing the past and changing the future?

  • Do you agree that we have a new chance to be better with each new day?
  • What does the Bible say about the decisions you have made in the past?
  • Are you stuck with them, or can you make a fresh start for yourself?
  • What are some things you'd like to try to do better or differently today?

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Soldiers mutilated in the war drown their sorrows in gin while a man of the cloth nearby drinks his claret in one gulp. Lord Luxon's soldiers drink beer at a bar they frequent. Lord Luxon orders his assistant to bring him a beer. The parson says he smells gin on the fortune-teller's breath and suggests she is intoxicated. Prior to his efforts to thwart Washington on a cold night, Lord Luxon has rarely endured any discomfort other than what was brought on by drinking too much wine. The old man who helps Peter and Gideon find the Tar Man's house has brandy on his breath, and he shares some with the Parson. A man attacks the Tar Man while he's drinking beer in the town square, and the Tar Man slits the attacker's throat. Alice drinks wine when she has dinner with Lord Luxon. Hannah gives Sir Richard some alcohol to help the pain as the Tar Man pops his arm back into its socket. Gideon and the Tar Man drink tankards of ale together on their way to get the time machine. When the Tar Man wakes up after traveling through time, his head hurts worse than after a night at his favorite bar (called The Bucket of Blood).

Dishonesty: As Sam tries to do his homework while Kate is gone, he thinks that if she were there, she would give him all the answers. When the Marquis damages the wall in the Dyer's home, Sam says he'll tell his mom that his dad was responsible for it.

Tobacco: The parson enjoys some snuff he's offered.

Hatred: Kate tells the Tar Man she hates him for all he's done to her, Peter and Gideon, as well as the trouble he has caused by traveling through time.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 to 14


Linda Buckley-Archer






Record Label



Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


On Video

Year Published




We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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