I stumbled across this book and picked it up on a whim, and I’m ever so glad that I did. While the concept of “secret organization that uses time travel for historical research purposes” isn’t new, Taylor manages to make this version her own with a number of subtle changes to the trope.
One of the things (out of many) that I liked most about this novel is that this is an example of near-future speculative fiction world-building done right. The author obviously knows a lot about what’s going on in the world outside of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research but never wastes a moment explaining things the reader doesn’t need to know. Instead, we get a tantalizing glimpses from comments made from one character to another, who already have all the context they need. I’m really hoping to learn more about the world outside St. Mary’s as this series progresses, but at the same time, the whole point is how insular the world of St. Mary’s is. I might not find out why America has closed its border or why everyone is obsessed with the Space Programme. And I’m okay with that, too.
My other favorite thing about this novel stems from my own experience as a writer: I’m very much in awe of how Taylor orchestrates the climax of the novel, which is not quite when you expect it to be, but only apparent after the fact. This doesn’t make very much sense, but I’m hesitant to say more without spoiling things. It all boils down to very effective use of time travel, and what happens when the protagonists’ timeline doesn’t quite match up with that of the antagonists’. It all made for a delightful reveal at the end, which was merely one in a long string of fascinating reveals about this world and its characters.
I was a little overwhelmed by the number of characters listed at the beginning, but it turned out to be a handy occasional reference. The section title of “Dramatis Thingummy” amused me greatly and was a great indicator of the tone of the rest of the novel.
As the first in a series, this book wraps up with a satisfying conclusion while still leaving just enough strings dangling to invite excitement for the next book. Mine just came in the mail this morning, and I’m excited to dive back into this world.
Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars.
Currently reading: A Wizard’s Forge (ARC) by A.M. Justice (67%)