A lone boy in search of his long-lost father leaves the bright lights and staged ‘magic’ of 19th century London theater to experience the dark and deadly magic of the Whitherworld. There, in a race against time, he staves off enchanted insects, outwits ruthless treasure hunters, and finds dad limp at the feet of a slavering beast.
Eleven-year-old Toby Fitzroy, a cheeky theater child, excels at acrobatics, throwing his voice, and eye-popping pranks, but isn’t especially good at following instructions, holding his tongue, or waiting. When his mother Lucy Le Breton, the dazzling star of the Theatre Royal, disappears, Toby faces life in London’s brutal Workhouse for Orphans & Waifs. Realizing his mother’s disappearance isn’t an accident and fearing he’s next, Toby runs for his life, searching for the mysterious sea explorer father he’s never known. When his mother’s pursuers catch up with him, he hides on a ship, only to discover it’s been commandeered for a top-secret royal mission, with him aboard.
England is under the rule of King Augustus, heir of the instability of his grandfather George III and the philandering ways of his father William IV. The magic-obsessed king commissions a last-ditch sea quest to raid the Whitherworld, a recently discovered parallel world of myth, magic and simmering unrest. According to legends, the Whitherworldian Temple of Lost Time is a repository of magical elixirs—time potions that can lengthen the king’s life and reign. But unleashing magic puts England in peril—an unstoppable plague of dust and darkness.
The king’s hobbling henchman, Royal Antiquarian Lord Godfrey, leads the quest. Armed with his portable cabinet of magical curiosities, he bullies his way into the Whitherworld, ever ready to crush, plunder and dominate.
Behind the scenes, whispering in the king’s ear is the hobgoblin jester Basil Goodfellow, a gift from a shadowy Whitherworldian ruler.
In this alternative history, it’s 1853, and London is in trouble, drowning in dust and gloom thanks to the feeble-minded king’s obsession with Olden Magic and his unwise alliance with the Whothers…
Though seemingly peaceful, the Whitherworld is buckling under internal struggles. Rebels are uprising, unleashing bedlam and exploiting every advantage they can from feeble-minded rulers in the Hitherworld…
The manuscript for middle grade readers is complete at 63,000 words. It has been redrafted numerous (innumerable?) times. In 2017 it won the Australian Society of Authors’ Emerging Writers’ Mentorship. Alison worked with poet|author|editor|lecturer Catherine Bateson on strengthening the story and tightening the third-person close POV.
Alison is querying literary agents overseas and publishers in Australia.
It’s had a number of working titles through its evolution, including:
- The Quest for the Scales of Time
- The Temple of Lost Time
- Time & Time Again
Alison knows better than to get too attached to any title.
Gaslamp by Avi Agarwal on Unsplash