Hello, everyone! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Other Side of the Whale Road by K.A. Hayton. The ebook is available now on Amazon, and the physical copies will be released in September. Thank you to TheWriteReads and the publisher for allowing me to participate in the tour and providing a copy of the book for review.
‘The Vikings are better armed than we are. They have long, heavy axes that can take a man’s head from
his shoulder. I know this because I see it happen.’
When his mum burns down their house on the Whitehorse estate, sixteen-year-old Joss is sent to live in a
sleepy Suffolk village.
The place is steeped in history, as Joss learns when a bike accident pitches him back more than 1,000 years to
an Anglo-Saxon village. That history also tells him his new friends are in mortal peril from bloodthirsty
invaders. Can he warn their ruler, King Edmund, in time?
And will he ever get home?
This book was an interesting mix of a contemporary YA story and a time travel adventure. I enjoyed both the modern and historical settings, and the plot of both parts of the story came together well to tell a good coming-of-age story. However, I think the concept was a bit ambitious given the length of the book. Much of the story felt a bit rushed, and I think adding some length to let the story breathe a bit and deepen secondary character arcs would have made it an even more enjoyable read for me.
I love historical fiction and time travel stories, and I enjoyed those aspects of this story a great deal. The author did an excellent job of setting the scene for the historical parts in a way that felt truly immersive. As I was reading, I felt as though I was living in the Anglo-Saxon village vicariously through the protagonist. It was interesting to see the society the author constructed for this time period and how everyone in the village, no matter how small, had a role to play in its day-to-day success. I found it fascinating to explore the resiliency and psyche of these characters who lived each day with the threat of the Viking raids. The contemporary setting was also incredibly immersive and felt distinctly British. I’m not from Britain, but the author brought it to life in such a way that I felt I was there.
The plot was intriguing and almost immediately gave me some Wizard of Oz vibes with the main character, Joss, being transported to the past (rather than the magical land of Oz) after an accident that left him unconscious. While in the past, Joss had to figure out his place in the village and eventually helped defend the village against the Viking invaders. The fight between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings and the ending of this part of the story were well-written and compelling, which kept me turning the page to find out how it was all going to play out. In the contemporary part of the story, Joss had a really rough life. His mother had difficulty taking care of him and his siblings, which led to him being removed from her care and sent to foster parents in the country. He had a rough start in this new place, as well, and was suspended from school. Ultimately, his time in the past gave him a break from his out of control life while also teaching him lessons he took back to his life in the present. Overall, I enjoyed the plot and the lessons he learned, but three things stood out to me as being a bit off. First, the Anglo-Saxon villagers in the past accepted Joss way too easily to be realistic. Second, the romance subplots were rushed and felt extraneous to the main plot, especially the one set in the past. Finally, the time travel aspect of the story was left completely unexplained. I wouldn’t have minded if it was just left ambiguous, but the author made sure to include marks of his physical injuries from his time in the past when he returned to the present. This, to me, means his physical body must have traveled through time rather than just his consciousness, which removed the ambiguity without giving any type of explanation.
The characterization of Joss was top notch. His struggles and hardships were moving to read, and his growth throughout the story was inspiring. He started out feeling somewhat overwhelmed and helpless with the events of his life and others’ expectations tossing him about aimlessly. He also felt alienated from others and suspected pretty much everyone of ulterior motives because of his previous bad experiences with people. His journey to the past and his relationships with his foster parents and others from the village helped him to open up and trust some people. It truly showed how influential being in a caring, accepting environment can be. From his time with the Anglo-Saxons, he also learned that even if he has no control over how things turn out, he can still control himself and his reactions to events, which was a powerful realization that helped him regain a sense of mastery over his own life. The other characters in the book were also enjoyable and had some great character moments, as well. However, they all felt less fully realized when compared to Joss, most likely due to the short length of the book.
Overall, I enjoyed the settings, story, and emotional journey of the main protagonist. If you are looking for a quick read and like time travel and coming-of-age stories, this might just be the book for you.
About the Author
K.A. HAYTON was born in Lincolnshire and read English at Sheffield University. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and has two daughters. The idea for The Other Side of the Whale Road came from her study of old English poetry at university, and from living in a place where Anglo-Saxon history feels very close.