book reviews by Althea

The Time Roads – Beth Bernobich **

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Throughout reading this book , I had the impression that it was a debut novel, and came away with the impression that, for all its clunkiness, it showed promise. I initially slid up from my ‘more-like-2.5-stars’ impression to 3. However, I’ve just noticed that it is not a debut; the author has half-a-dozen other books to her name… so I’m sliding back down to 2.

The novel is in three distinct sections. (Technically, four, but the middle two ‘felt’ like one, to me.) The first is quite short, and is from the perspective of the young, soon-to-be-Queen of the Empire of Éire, Áine Devereaux. The set-up feels like that of a typical romance, introducing a love triangle. Áine meets and is instantly attracted to a dashing blond inventor, Breandan Ó Cuilinn, who seeks royal patronage for his research into time fractures; but she also soon has sparks flying with her dark and handsome personal bodyguard Aidrean Ó Deághaidh. [I have to admit, I found myself reading the names as Ann, Brendan, and Adrian O’Day.]
My initial reaction was, “Oh, I didn’t realize this was a romance.”

Well, it’s not. Soon enough, a science-experiment-related accident has taken Brendan out of the picture, and the narrative focus switches mostly over to O’Day. He’s been re-assigned by Queen Ann (ok, it’s actually pronounced ‘Anya’) to investigate the serial murders of several brilliant college students – many of whose field of expertise seems to relate in some way to the ‘time roads’ and ‘time fractures’ that Brendan was working on, before his disappearance. There may also be a connection to terrorist plots having to do with ‘The Matter of Anglia’ (yes, here England is the disgruntled colony, not Ireland). Things start exploding…both literally and figuratively.

In this section, I think many fans of alternate history would get very frustrated. A politically complex Europe is introduced here, but we don’t get any of the background into why and how this timeline got to where they are. Why does the Queen of Eire have a French (or ‘Frankonian’) name, for example? How did Ireland come to ascendance at all? Why do the various countries bear grudges against the empire? It’s hard to enjoy unraveling a mystery and a plot when elements are just introduced randomly: “Oh, well, it could be the Anatolian terrorists!” (What Anatolian terrorists? Never heard of them before!)

In addition, the time experiments seem to have introduced ‘fractures’ into this timeline, which is an interesting idea, but in practice makes for a further element of confusion. Characters start “remembering” events that didn’t happen… or did they? Or are they insane? Did certain murders happen at all? Even at the end of the book, it hasn’t all been fully clarified…

The third section brings us back to the Queen, and the main plot points do all get wrapped up. Thankfully, the Queen has definitely matured over time. The reader doesn’t actually see it happening, but she’s become a believable leader, rather than a moony-eyed teenager.

Overall, there’s definitely some fun adventure here, some colorful, appealing characters.. but the worldbuilding and pacing needed some work, in my opinion.

Copy provided by NetGalley – many thanks for the opportunity to read. As always (and obviously) my opinion is my own, and unaffected by the source.


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