The Ship of Doom is R.M.S. Titanic, which sailed from Southampton where your reviewer lives, so this book held a special interest!
It’s 1894, in Greenwich, London. Luna’s father had disappeared, and is said to be ‘on another plane’ by which she presumes adults are trying to tell her that he has died. She is expecting an afternoon of boredom when she has to accompany her Aunt Grace to her Butterfly Club, but they turn out to be a group of time travellers, including explorers and artists, and the authors Arthur Conan Doyle and H G Wells. They go into the future and ‘borrow’ useful inventions, but are careful not to anticipate developments by too much. They have successfully introduced the Kodak box camera, the gramophone and the electric lightbulb, and now they want a Marconi radio set. Their guide, a clockwork bird, advises a trip to Southampton Docks about 18 years ahead, on any White Star ship except… and his clockwork fades.
Luna is teamed up with the elegant Konstantin, son of another member of the group, and young Aidan, a mechanic, who has been trained by his father to manage the Time Train. Of course, the ship they travel to turns out to be the Titanic, and they almost experience the sinking, but manage to return to the Time Train to escape, and then realise they can go back a little in time, (but still ahead of their own time, so that is possible according to the rules of the Time Train) and change the things that went wrong. They borrow clothes from the laundry and infiltrate First Class, the crew and the engineers.
It is well documented that many small things contributed to the loss of the huge ship on her maiden voyage: the owner, Bruce Ismay, wanted to show off the speed of his ship, iceberg warnings were ignored, and binoculars that might have helped the lookouts to spot the iceberg ahead were locked in a cupboard. They find that fixing one thing can lead to other complications, and there is a stoker, Arthur Priest, who seems to be trying to stop them, but they are helped by a mysterious stranger who turns out to be Luna’s father. They also realise, by checking the newspapers of the future, that their actions would have consequences e.g. stealing the radio would mean that no appeals for help could be sent out, and the ship might have gone down with all hands. Can they save the inventor Marconi, who is on board?
Arthur Priest, a real stoker, had survived more than one sinking – so, in this scenario, he might he be a time traveller. He will be appearing in the next book, set in Egypt around the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, to be published in October. M A Bennett is a historian, female of course (are boys really fooled by the use of initials?) and already a successful author of adult thrillers – this is her first YA book. It’s a very clever account of the story, and very enjoyable to read.