"The quest rolls along nicely, with elements not only of time travel but of an alternative world which is well-constructed but never imposes. "
Alternative / Fantasy/ Time Travel
Retired Temporal Agent Wilda Firestone just wants to run her Toronto shop, clothe time tourists and send them on their merry way into the past. She's content with her cat, sarcasm, and whisky. All of that changes when a near-death time-traveller falls at her doorstep, setting off a chain reaction which forces her to return to the job she ran from decades before.
The Agency sends her with assistant, Mattea, back into three dangerous historical eras to find the disease threatening the life of every time-traveller. They search a teeming desert bazaar in the luxurious court of Mansa Musa. They explore the dark forests of pre-Columbian North America. They become entangled in the convoluted politics of twelfth-century Norse-ruled Orkney.
But if Wilda can't return in time with the right pathogen, modern scientists won't be able to synthesise a cure before all time-travellers die.
What a terrific line in snark Wilda has! Occasionally overdone, but it’s highly effective and meets its target every time. But she isn’t just a fifty-odd year old kickass; inside she’s seared by the loss of her son and small child while on a time mission years ago. We see her courage, her weakness, her care for her colleagues and her policy of ‘take no prisoners’ all fighting it out in one persona. The secondary characters are nicely drawn, one or two over the top like Lady Xanthippe, but it’s the type of book that reminds you of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, so a little exaggeration is allowed.
The quest rolls along nicely, with elements not only of time-travel but of an alternative world which is well-constructed but never imposes. Worldbuilding in an alternative or fantasy world is hard, but the author has pulled it off well by keeping the details sparse and her characters living perfectly naturally in that world. When one character does have to explain something to another character, it’s relevant to the story and generally done smoothly with nothing of the deadly info-dump.
The three historical locations are vividly but succinctly drawn; I could see them all in my mind’s eye. The occasional linguistic blip jolts you, but never throws you out of a well-paced story. One strength of this book is the snappy dialogue and the distinct change in voice with each character.
Fans of history, time-travel and alternative history will love this. I hope we see more of Wilda Firestone.
© Alison Morton