Fantasy Review: ‘The Time Roads’ by Beth Bernobich

If I could bang the hype drum alone I would. I don’t know what I need to do to convince a The Time Roadsfew people to get excited about a new release but for the love of god people, get excited about this release. I will shout if I have to, but I don’t think I should. I expect that for once in my life someone will listen to me, take my advice to heart, and read this damn book.

I know a book is doing everything right when it is making me love it despite using elements I usually hate. I hate time travel in my books people. Hate hate HATE it. All I want to do is poke holes in the plot lines; who hasn’t wondered why Hermione could save a hippogryph but not any of the humans killed in battle? And alternative history? Psh, give me a break. Usually it gets tied up trying to include real life figures and falls over its own tangled web. But Bernobich has given me the book I needed to prove every rule is made to be broken. Time travel in an alternative earthly timeline and it feels so good.

Believe it or not this book is first and foremost a political book. This is a land where Éire has risen to the top. Culturally and politically they are looked to for guidance by Europe. But it is a time of strife despite the appearance of peace. The Anglian colonies are beset by separatist, Prussia is looking to expand their power base, and everyone is interested in the technological achievements Éire is making. One of those techs? The study of time.

Enter Áine, young queen of the land. Watching a demonstration of a young scientist’s machine perks her interest despite less than impressive results. And while her country comes first from the beginning;her obsession with the subject fuels her passions for both science and scientist. One test is all it takes to change everything though; trying to travel time has real consequences.

That is it, that is all I can tell you. Even a hint at what you can expect will be a major spoiler; or perhaps only a red herring. Because this be a journey that has to be taken on its own. This is a tale that shifts as it needs to; pushing towards a specific goal while the rules and gameboard changes around it. Entire plot lines may be thrown out as time changes, but it can never be forgotten. Nothing can be forgotten, event that which is forgotten, it all ties together and it all is part of the final tapestry that Bernobich weaves.

Disjointed? Perhaps at times, despite the purposeful nature behind it. From the initial thrill of discovery to the possible consequences there is a solid and surprisingly complete novella in the first third alone. A political thriller makes up the middle portion as Áine sends out her old body guard Ó Deághaidh (there is a hell of a story there that I won’t even go into) to the continent in an attempt to keep her land, and rule, secure. Despite some cerebral mind fucks throughout the narrative I never found the book tough to read nor especially complex. The politics and espionage and scientific discovery were engaging on their own; even more so when thrown through the mixer.

I want to rant and rave about nothing but the awesomeness of this book. I really do. This hit me the same way Felix Gilman did the same time; no way should a book this smart should be this engaging. It gives me illusions of having intelligence. But I can’t go all out on the book, I have to be honest. This book was only perfect for like, the first 95%. Granted that is a whole lot of awesome. But those endings are so important to overall enjoyment and this one fell short. Not in a horrible, ruined the book, how could things go so wrong so fast kind of way. But in a, ‘eh? That’s it?’ kind of way. Way too easy, way too transparent, just a bit of a letdown after a great ride.

Conclusion? READ THIS BOOK. Please? Because even an average ending it is pretty awesome.

4 Stars

Copy for review received through NetGalley

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