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Book review: Time travel, as adventure, misses the mark in 'Keeper's Saga'

"THE KEEPER'S CALLING" and "THE KEEPER'S QUEST," by Kelly Nelson, Walnut Springs Press, $17.99 (f) (ages 8 and up)

In “The Keeper’s Calling,” a family vacation in Zion National Park soon turns into an adventure of a lifetime when 17-year-old Chase Harper discovers a watch-like object (a counter) that plummets him back to the year 1863.

There he finds Ellie Williams, the granddaughter of a man who had been the Keeper of the counter. Since Chase had manipulated the counter, he becomes the new Keeper. Chase and Ellie “shuffle” or time travel to the present day where his twin sister, Jessica, learns of his special gift.

Chase shuffles through portals to the past then back again to the present without loss of time. He meets other Keepers working to defeat evil Sniffers.

In the second book of the saga, "The Keeper's Quest," the time travel continues and Chase learns the history of the Keepers, which resulted from the talents of seven sorcerers whose magic was necessary to form a new dimension in the world while keeping out evil.

Since becoming one of the seven, his life as secret Keeper and student, son, boyfriend and athlete is complicated. He juggles present-day obligations with almost daily time travel episodes, often with Ellie at his side. Ellie becomes his major interest as are the few acquaintances he meets in the other eras of time such as a man digging the Erie Canal and a woman during the Nazi uprising, both of whom are Keepers.

Time travel is a classic theme that appeals to young readers, and Utah native and author Kelly Nelson's premise of a present-day boy’s commitment to being a Keeper of the world’s peace in all eras of time is seductive. But except towards the ending of the second book when action is suddenly thrown in Chase’s path, the author too often digresses from the initial commission of the Keepers to Chase’s present-day evolving love interest of Ellie.

Almost daily he merely shuffles across town from his bedroom to Ellie’s home which dilutes, it seems, the intent of real time travel and the purpose of Chase’s special assignment as Keeper and protector of the world from evil. The moral aspiration of the Keepers seems thin and contrived, not fully developed with “real” issues and world dilemmas.

Both books have clean language and no described violence.

Readers who relish the beginning relationship of Chase and Ellie while his being involved in limited political matters throughout time probably will enjoy “The Keepers Calling” and “The Keeper’s Quest.” But for those who see the possibility of a Keeper in worldwide conflicts with more dramatic adventure than athletic try-outs, prom dances interspersed with daily time travel that never really prepares Chase for his important mission, may be put off. Perhaps the third in the series will bring more action and adventure and a role for Chase as Keeper that tests and makes him worthy of that significant responsibility.