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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Review: Time Twisters – Cape of Slaves

Cape of Slaves is the first in the Time Twisters series by Sam Roth, the pen name of Dorothy Dyer and Ros Haden. It’s an interesting concept – a time travelling dust, created by scientists in the year 2099, finds its way into the present, allowing a group of teenagers to travel back in time through paintings and books.

Three very different teenagers, Sarah, Toby and Bonisile (aka Bones) travel back to the year 1825 to rescue Miriam, a girl who disappeared through a painting at the local museum. What they find is a Cape Town straight from the history books, but what their textbooks didn’t tell them was that the Cape Town of the past existed at the height of the slave trade, where people of colour were regarded as little more than livestock.

The setting of the novel left me divided. As much as I enjoyed reading about the day to day activities of the city’s early inhabitants – especially the riotously funny account of the legendary Dr James Barry- the reality of how people treated slaves was jarring.

I understand why this is an important book for younger readers. South Africa today is a country that has left its dark history of racism far behind. We are a rainbow nation, where the colour of someone’s skin is as unimportant as the colour of their hair or eyes. Learning about our past teaches us about how far we’ve come, and also the reasons why we had to change. Bones, Toby and Sarah are children of the rainbow nation, and their incomprehension at the racism they encounter is an important moment in the story. Racism is a thing of the past, and that’s where it should stay.

It’s not easy reading, but also necessary reading.

Time Twisters – Cape of Slaves is also an adventure story. I was reminded of K.A. Applegate’s Everworld series where a group of teens also travelled to various important moments in time, but how the Time Twisters series differs is that it’s one hundred percent South African. For a school learner it would be a fun companion to read while learning about South African history.

I’m looking forward to seeing what moment in history the authors tackle next.


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