Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith

by Debbie Gonzales on March 20, 2012

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If ever there were a smartly-written, fascinating, action-packed, high-stakes mystery Chronal Engine is the one.  Greg Leitich Smith’s fast-paced prose, paired with Blake Henry’s graphic novel-like illustrations, will wow even the most dire of reluctant readers. An intriguing time travel adventure, cleverly crafted characters which appeal to both genders, and dinosaurs! Reader, you can’t go wrong with Chronal Engine. I’m telling it true.

Eighth-grade paleo-geek Max and his popular older twin siblings, Kyle and Emma, must spend the summer with their excentric grandfather on his hill-country ranch west of Austin, Texas – home to Loblolly dinosaur tracks, fossilized from the Cretaceous period.  The ranch house was built by Max’s great-grandfather “Mad Jack” Pierson, a recluse who spent his fortune building a time machine called the “Chronal Engine.” As the story progresses, Emma is kidnapped at gunpoint by a man dressed in early 1900’s garb, both of whom are transported into another space and time in a flash of light. Max, Kyle, and Petra (the hunting-bow bearing girl next door) must rely on Mad Jack’s invention to save Emma and, coincidentally, unravel centuries old family secrets. To do so, they travel back to Cretaceous period – the dangerous days of the dinosaurs, when Tyrannosaurus Rex was vicious king!

One of the most satisfying aspects of Chronal Engine is the compelling ending, as it should be. In efforts to avoid crafting a spoiler, let me say that there are hints of a story yet to come. Max has a duty that only he fulfill – a task, if left undone, can shatter aspects of time and place as it is presently know. High-stakes, I’m telling you! Greg Leitich Smith has left this reader wanting more.  A sequel, perhaps?

One can only hope.

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