Charles Wallace flying on a Pegasus in the clouds with demons below them trying to grab them.

About the Book

Title: A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time Quintet #3)
Published: 1978

BFF Charm: Makin’ It Rain
Talky Talk: A Rhythmic Sprint
Bonus Factors: Time Travel, Unicorns, Mrs. O’Keefe, Nuclear War
Relationship Status: The Reason I Get Out Of Bed In The Morning


Okay! Falkor isn’t a unicorn and Guardiel isn’t a luck dragon, but I have been conditioned by pop culture to automatically reference Falkor anytime I see a photo of a boy riding a magnificent winged beast.

Which happens so much more often than you would think.

The Deal:


Okay, phew. I just needed to get that out of my system. Now we can begin.

It’s Thanksgiving at the Murrys! Meg, who is MARRIED TO CALVIN AND HAS A BABY INSIDE HER (but we’ll get to that), is home visiting as Calvin is in London at an important Science Conference to which neither of the Doctors Murry were apparently invited. Everyone’s feeling kind of awkward, because Calvin’s moody, mean-ass mom, Mrs. O’Keefe, is also there, grumping all over everything with her grumpiness. Damn, Mrs. O’Keefe, how’s a person supposed to get their plum pudding on with you frowning at everyone? Don’t you have, like, nine other kids whose holiday you could be ruining?

Anyhooskies, the telephone rings and it’s the President! And he’s calling to tell Mr. Dr. O’Keefe that the crazy dictator, Mad Dog Branzillo of made-up place Vespugio, is threatening to nuke the US within 24 hours! Except, it doesn’t really seem like there’s much that the President wants Mr. Dr. Murry to do. I think he’s just calling because they’re pals.

The threat of impending nuclear demise snaps Mrs. O’Keefe out of her grumpy state and she charges Charles Wallace (whom she calls “Chuck,” which is never okay) to stop the insanity. She recites to him a special rhyme that she knew as a girl, and when Charles Wallace says it on the star-watching rock, a unicorn named Guardiel appears! He has to take Charles Wallace to other Whens so that Charles Wallace can try to change outcomes for the better and defeat the Echthroi and stop nuclear war!

With only his preggo sister kything to him and the occassional help of Sandy and Dennys who have finally become useful, Charles Wallace and Gaurdiel must defeat the Echrthroi, change what Might-Have-Been and save the world! In 24 hours or less! BEAT THAT, JACK BAUER.

BFF Charm: Makin’ It Rain

BFF charm holding an umbrella

OBVS as this book focuses on Charles Wallace, I’m flashing these BFF charms like a sad, lonely man who has been taught by society that he deserves the companionship of women without ever putting any work into it flashes bills at a strip club!

So a BFF charm to Charles Wallace, of course, and one to Meg, as always, but additional ones go out to Guardiel and some of the people Charles Wallace travels Within: Brandon, Matt, and Chuck.

But my biggest, shiniest, diamond-encrusted BFF charm goes to Beezy, who broke my little heart in exactly 12 million pieces.

Swoonworthy Scale: -14

Hold the phone, Madeleine L’Engle. HOLD. THE. PHONE.

First of all, why’d you have to go and make Charles Wallace a teenager? Not that he isn’t still awesome, but I can’t think of Charles Wallace masturbating to Ms. Dr. Murry’s Victoria’s Secret catalogs like every other 15-year-old boy I ever knew! My precious Charles Wallace doesn’t DO those types of things! BECAUSE HE IS ETERNALLY SIX. Get it, L’Engle? Do you understand? CHARLES WALLACE IS FROZEN IN CARBONITE AT PRECISELY HIS MOST PRECOCIOUS AGE!

But SECOND OF ALL, how dare you cheat me out of sexytimes between Meg and Calvin?? SHE HAS A BABY IN HER TUMMY AND HE PUT IT THERE AND I DON’T EVEN GET TO READ ABOUT HOW THEY GOT IT ON??? I mean, you can’t throw me one little bone? Some sort of flashback to their wedding night (I’m not foolish enough to think it was any time before that) when they nervously but tenderly did sexytimes for the first ever time? Maybe even, like, just some third base action? Madeleine, YOU ARE ON NOTICE.

Talky Talk: A Rhythmic Sprint

The Time books tend to frustrate me a little bit because it takes a while for the action to get started and then, once it does, there’s usually a couple twenty-page breaks in which the characters talk over everything they’ve already learned (no where is this worse than in A Wind in the Door, which I honestly really don’t like.).

This book, on the other hand, tends to keep the action high and although there’s still a lot of Mythical Creature Moralizing it never spins out into a sermon. Charles Wallace hops from body to body, so we get to spend some time with the different Maddocs and Llawcaes whom presumably spread their seed all over that one town in Connecticut. And when Charles Wallace isn’t Within someone, he’s having fun adventures like landing in the Ice Age and/or WATCHING A UNICORN BE BORN.

Plus, “Patrick’s Rune” (the poem which Mrs. O’Keefe relates to Charles Wallace) is peppered throughout the story, so that anytime a character shouts it, you get to say it too!

At {insert something/someone here!} in this fateful hour,
I place all Heavenwith its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the wind with its swiftness along its path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the Earth with its starkness
All these I place
By God’s almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness


Bonus Factors: Time Travel

A group of teens huddled together with light swirling around them and a city on the horizon, in a scene from Project Alamanac

Charles Wallace gets to go to the ICE AGE, y’all! Okay, so, he goes to the Ice Age because the Echthroi are trying to kill him, but still. ICE AGE.

Bonus Factor: Unicorns

Black background with rainbow colored unicorns, moons, and stars in a varying pattern

I really love Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Whatsit, but second to them, Guardiel’s the best companion. He’s a UNICORN! And he is sarcastic and a little pompous, which is how I’ve always imagined unicorns to be. AND HE LIVES ON A UNICORN PLANET. Guardiel is so baller.

Bonus Factor: Mrs. O’Keefe

An older woman holding a pigeon; the homeless bird lady from Home Alone 2

My favorite part about this book is getting to meet Mrs. O’Keefe (Beezy) as a child and seeing how she turned from a bright, happy child into the bitter, mean woman who had Calvin. It shows just how much a person can be changed by their circumstances, but it also reminds us that, at the end of the day, being a shitty person is a choice, not a destiny.

Relationship Status: The Reason I Get Out Of Bed In The Morning

Listen, book; I’ll be honest. Sometimes I don’t really understand how you came to be. You just strolled in out of nowhere and threw my carefully-ordered timeline out of whack. All of my assumptions about the everlasting childhood of one Charles Wallace went flying out the window, and you didn’t really give me a lot of time to get used to things before you threatened to nuke my planet.

But that said, Book, you are a treasure, and my favorite of all of your family. Even when I get a little fed up with your brothers and sisters knocking on my door with their religious pamphlets, I will always welcome you into my home gladly. You’re funny and poignant and exciting and sometimes a little confusing, and I wouldn’t change you for the world.

Except for the part where you hold out on the hot swoony baby-making times. We really need you to work on that.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). A Swiftly Tilting Planet is available now.

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.