Review ‘A Message Through Time’ Anna Ciddor

What a great read! A story with non-stop action and well integrated historical facts revolving around a modern duo, Felix and his stepsister Zoe, who are visiting France with their parents. Felix accidently (due to curiosity and a writing stylus) gets Zoe and himself transported back over a thousand years to 315 CE and Arelate (modern-day Arles, France) in ancient Roman Gaul.

Inadvertently Felix and Zoe meet a haughty high status Roman girl Petronia and her wilful dog Furia. At first the characters of Zoe and Petronia seemed abrasive to me but as time went on I found their personalities much more interesting. There are threads of understanding and relating, and for Felix and Zoe to come to terms with their parents new relationship. If they ever get back home!

The busy streets of the city of Arelate with its library, meeting place, and special bathhouse, teems with activity and the sights, sounds, smells, strange food and citizens are well documented by author illustrator Anna Ciddor.

My favourite chapters start from ‘Over The Boat Bridge’ which leads to hard labour and major discomfort on a terrifying leaky boat trip. As if the coarse food and anxiety isn’t enough, Anatolius is an overbearing boat owner. But it’s true what the book blurb says, a rollercoaster adventure. There is high drama on the Druentia river before the trio reach their destination, Avennio.

After a disappointment, there is a long climb to reach the Sacred Spring and Villa Fontanicum. Why is this place their hard-won goal? I guess you’ll have to read the book and follow the map to discover the answers. And find out if they like the food along the way. Felix tastes a variety of strange dishes (and sees how cheese is made) but my favourite dish was Calves’ Brain Pudding. Ugh!

The duo witness street processions (Hermes/Mercury with his snake staff named Caduceus) and see unusual medical treatments. Petronia is keen to take them to a live theatre performance; but the big question here is will Petronia lose her snobby attitude and make friends? Meanwhile Felix must face a worrying situation regarding their time transporting stylus. He needs to problem solve fast to get Zoe and himself back to the future.

As a fan of irreverent TV series ‘Plebs’ for adults, I think Anna Ciddor has written a factual yet rollicking adventure suitable for children/teenager/adult readers. An ancient Roman must-read, an exciting immersive time-slip journey into the past.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Anna Ciddor has always been fascinated by the past. It would be her dream come true to step through time! Instead, she immersed herself in research and hunts out the tiniest details so she can bring the past to life in her imagination—and her books. To find out more Visit

The acclaimed standalone companion novel ‘The Boy Who Stepped Through Time’ is also well worth reading Visit

Nota bene: You can see two Romans on this Brisbane Writers Festival poster, not connected to the book, nevertheless they indicate that people have been reading and writing for a long, long, long time…

The BWF advise “In May 2023, Brisbane Writers Festival is spinning a rollicking tale of festive entertainment across five days, four nights and more than 100 literary events.”
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