Borrobil, by William Croft Dickinson, for Timeslip Tueday

2018 is not proving a good year for me with regard to time travel book reading.  I have been planning poorly, as I realized this past weekend when I had no new time travel book to read on hand.  So I scrounged in my tbr pile, and found Borrobil, by William Croft Dickinson, a fantasy from 1944 that seemed to be a timeslip story....

Two siblings, Donald and Jane, on holiday in an old English village, find themselves drawn to a mysterious hill on the magical night of Beltane, and dance among the hilltop rocks.  This summons an old magician, Borrobil, who tells them they have danced themselves through time.  And then basically Borrobil takes them on a fantasy jaunt of knights and evil wizards and the fairy realm and Vikings, full of side stories he tells that don't much further the plot (not that there is much plot anyway, just sightseeing).

It was frustrating, because almost I could believe that young me would have loved the somewhat olde style of the writing and the Celtic magic of it all, but young me (like current me) absolutely cannot stand when people in stories stop what they are doing to tell long stories that aren't directly relevant.  Also both young and old me would much rather have had Donald and Jane Do more and be less passive floaters on the river of stories.  They never quite became real or interesting protagonists, yet right toward the end they showed that they had the potential to so.  And on top of that, I have never liked jolly wizards with silly sounding names like Borrobil.  

Plus though we were wandering through olden times, this was such a fantastical version of olden times that it hardly felt like time travel; it felt more like a portal fantasy.  Which is fine, but not what I wanted.   I feel that when a character says on page 22 "Do you mean.....that we are now in the times that are dead and gone and that we shall see lots of things that happened long ago?" which sounds interesting, but the paradox of Borrobil being there in the past and now again (?) as the children's guide is never addressed, and there's almost no time travel wonderment from the kids, just wonderment at all the magic they are seeing.  And it is pretty magical, verging at times on the numinous, but not enough to hook me.

So basically it did not fit my needs at this time.  But I wouldn't be at all surprised if it hadn't influenced latter British writers of fantasy, and the three reviews on Goodreads, all by people who read it as a child, are full of love for it....


  1. Interesting review. It sounds like something I also would have liked as a child, but my reading tastes have changed a lot over the years. I do love the cover though. Thanks for the post.


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