“Yer know that there's a thing, a real thing that is time? Myrthali! The Sands of Time! The dust the ages leave in their wake! A powder yer take. Boil a little up on a teaspoon with milk and liquorice and yer'll be livin' for another four years! And some’s got a lot more than a teaspoonful, I can tell yer...”
When 12-year-old Krish finds out his mum is dying, he is desperate to give her more time to live. This leads to a deal with a devil-like creature to travel to another realm, Ilir, and collect the essence of time itself.
Ilir is a tiny desert world where the days are a handful of hours long and there is magic and treachery on every corner. Here Krish is set three impossible challenges by the brutal King Odsendei to win from him the Myrthali, 'the sands of time'. Krish is aided by the razor-tongued, young girl-wizard Balthrir, who hopes to free her parents from the Black Palace; a living, breathing structure built entirely out of those subjects who have incurred the wrath of the King.
Krish and Balthrir will climb a mountain perched on top of a tree, dive into the pitch black depths of the Night Ocean and witness a firestorm over the Pale Hunting Grounds, where majestic and terrifying birds are born out of flames in the sky. They will meet Old Margary, a powerful sorceress and the last of the Sheekarla, whose perception of time is warped by her extreme old age (she once didn't speak for several decades in what she considered 'a natural gap in the conversation'). They will encounter the brutal Goonmallinns who would use them as bait to capture a FireHawk. And they will be pursued by the Vulrein; hellish dogs who haunt Krish, picking up his scent every time he closes his eyes. But Krish may be about to learn that there is more than his mother's life at stake as he gets embroiled in a blood-thirsty fight for power in Ilir that will push his friendship with Balthrir to its limits.
Inspired by everything from His Dark Materials to Grimm's Tales and the Russian folk tale The Fool of the World and His Flying Ship, The Boy Who Stole Time is also greatly influenced by the author's travels in Asia and Saharan Africa. This is a story from someone who has really climbed mountains, dived into the deep and trekked through the desert on foot. A tale for children and adults that is packed with humour, imagination and excitement that will inspire travel through pure escapism.
Krish had a few minutes to take in the face looking down at them. It was as if Old Margary was comprised entirely of filthy old starched rags. Her face was a swirl of rough canyons on dry and mottled skin that did not look like it had moved for years. Hidden in her ghostly features were two shallow dark craters which he presumed were her eyes. She looked through him for some time, stiff as a statue, and then slowly turned to Balthrir.
“Bbbbbaaaaallll-” Came the elongated croak from the small crease that was Old Margary's mouth.
“Balthrir!” Interrupted Balthrir “Yep, that's me! Been a long time, old girl. Might need a bit of assistance, if yer've got the time...”
Old Margary considered this for roughly 20 minutes, then took five minutes to lower her head and another five for it rise up again to complete her nod. Then, with unexpected swiftness, she re-entered the house. Balthrir climbed the ladder and Krish followed.
The house was filled with pages. Books torn apart, the pages suspended from strings, positioned all about the ramshackle abode. Cauldrons, test tubes and mixing bowls were strewn about the worktops and a mattress-lined alcove encircled the whole of Old Margary's home. In fact, much seemed to be replicated around the room, perhaps so the ancient witch - who clearly moved at a pace that would see her being lapped by snails if she were in a race – would always have food and somewhere to rest for night, wherever she was in the room.
Old Margary stood by a hanging cauldron, flames flickering around the rim.
“Let me help!” butted in Balthrir.
While Old Margary was caught in a bow of thanks for a few minutes, Balthrir leapt forward and picked up a large black sphere, resembling a cannon ball, filled it with water and placed it at the heart of the roaring fire.
Krish was aware of Old Margary's inquisitive gaze washing over him. The skin of her sack-like face was surely about to crack, Krish thought as the corners of her mouth moved upwards for the first time that he had seen.
Telling someone nervous to relax is about as effective as placing a large, scrumptious-looking cake in front of a hungry child and leaving them alone in a room with it, with the express order not to consider even the tiniest of mouthfuls.
Instead Krish gave all his attention to the process of tea-making. The fire was so intense that steam billowed out of the holes in the top of the cannonball kettle. Balthrir had lowered glass tubes into these holes and all the steam was travelling up them at great speed. The tubes bared off at right angles, all heading out from the central point at which they met and the steam passed through porous sachets filled with tea leaves before the tubes took a dive another 90 degrees to bulbous flasks tied to the end of the tubes. Once full, Balthrir removed the flasks and stoppered them tightly before placing them in a sink filled with cold water. With minutes the steam had condensed into liquid and Balthrir was serving them in teacups with a little cold water.
Krish was overjoyed that Old Margary sprang her question moments after sitting down rather than pondering for hours on end.
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