Review: “The Time Garden” by Edward Eager

Elizabeth I, the characters of Little Women, a magical toad who can turn into a dragon, and a very special “thyme” garden—Edward Eager used all these means to paint a very vivid sequel to Knight’s Castle.  It is strange how Knight’s Castle is not the sequel to Half Magic but is still parallel to it, just like The Time Garden is the sequel to Knight’s Castle but parallel to Magic by the Lake.  The Time Garden, like Magic by the Lake, deals with the subject of adolescence and teenage behavior as well as the imminent death of childhood.  Nevertheless, its plot still portrays very animated and child-like wishes that take cousins Roger, Ann, Eliza, and (a very reluctant) Jack through Elizabethan England, the times of the American Revolution, and a pirates’ treasure island.

Again interrelating the stories and characters of all four novels and finally making the family connections clear, Eager goes all the way with his “time garden” and the properties of thyme as both a fragrant herb and an instrument of magical time travel.  Sent to an old relative living by the sea, Roger, Ann, Eliza and Jack have to cope through another summer together.  However, the thyme garden (notice all the wordplay on the word “time”) calls to all four of them despite Jack’s numerous flirtations and side activities, drawing them back to what they love the most and helping them to finally mature into the young adults they should be.

The Time Garden is perhaps the most amusing and the funniest of all Eager’s works so far, but it still follows the tradition of its three predecessors by writing out a very unusual and enjoyable time travel journey for four precocious children who get along best in the midst of a magical adventure.  Although Eliza’s character is brash and not the most likeable of the four, Eliza’s commentary is as acute as ever and her personal fight against slavery during the Civil War is one of the most memorable time travel episodes during the course of the plot.  Jack is emotionally irresponsible with all his attentions to the opposite sex and his constant ambiguity toward his friendship with his cousins and sister, a problem that the “dragony” toad and guide of their adventures soon remedies with his stern reprimands (like when he intervenes personally in a side story of Little Women).  Roger and Ann, however, have not changed much from their personalities in Knight’s Castle.

Another highlight of The Time Garden is when all four cousins meet their parents as young children during an encounter that will be simultaneously ironic and inventive to anyone familiar with Magic by the Lake.  The last of Eager’s four “related” novels, The Time Garden ends an outstanding journey through history, fantasy, and fiction by not only comparing modern times to historical periods but also sending four children to give a remarkable retrospect of how the present has been shaped by the past and how enticing the idea of magic really is, no matter what age the reader (or the participant) is.

Original review: Part 6: Selections from Edward Eager’s ‘Tales of Magic’ seriesPart 7: Selections from Edward Eager’s ‘Tales of Magic’ series,


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