I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich
Published by Tor Books on October 14, 2014
Also by this author: Passion Play, Queen’s Hunt, Allegiance
A fantastical nineteenth century alternate historical steampunk romp from Beth Bernobich, the critically acclaimed author of the River of Souls trilogy.
Éire is one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Anglian Dependencies are a dusty backwater filled with resentful colonial subjects, Europe is a disjointed mess, and many look to Éire for stability and peace. In a series of braided stories, Beth Bernobich has created a tale about the brilliant Éireann scientists who have already bent the laws of nature for Man's benefit. And who now are striving to conquer the nature of time.
The Golden Octopus: Áine Lasairíona Devereaux, the young Queen of Éire, balances Court politics while pursing the Crown's goals of furthering scientific discovery. When those discoveries lead to the death and madness of those she loves, Áine must choose between her heart and her duty to her kingdom.
A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange: Síomón Madóc is desperately trying to discover who is killing the brightest of Éire's mathematicians. The key to saving lives lies in the future...and Síomón must figure out a way to get there.
Ars Memoriae: Éireann spymaster Aidrean Ó Deághaidh goes to the kingdom of Montenegro to investigate rumors of great unrest. But Ó Deághaidh is tormented by visions of a different timeline and suspects that someone in his own government is playing a double game….
The Time Roads: Éire stands on the brink of the modern age, but old troubles still plague the kingdom. An encounter with a mysterious stranger near death holds the clue to both the past and the future of the nation.
If I had one word to describe THE TIME ROADS I would use brilliant. I’ve never read anything quite like it in terms of format and story. The book is actually four novellas, but what is so amazing is that all four stories are meant to be read together, and are not supposed to be seen as individual entities. Somehow, even if the main characters and the point of views change from one stories to the other, Beth Bernobich was able to intertwine the stories together to create a rich and complex history of a nation that is facing technological advances and political disruption.
THE TIME ROADS is at first a political story, in an alternate world, where Éire (Ireland) is a powerful empire and Anglia (England) is one of its dependencies. The early 20th century of this alternate universe is when Anglians are searching for independence, or at least to be recognized as a country. It’s also the time where great minds of science, or more specifically physics and mathematics, are changing the world. In Europe, technology that could potentially be used in warfare is on every political leader’s mind especially since political tension can be felt throughout the continent. It’s always obvious that this is an alternate universe, however, it does have some similarities with our own world. Prussia is pushing to expand its borders, Austria is also trying to expand its influence, and Montenegro is cringing as those superpowers flex their muscles. There is also the attempt to create the Union of Nations, an organization that could potentially mirror our own United Nations. The author obviously researched our early 20th century history in order to base her universe partially on ours, but still she managed to add her own twist to create a completely different world.
As the title would have you believe, some of the technology being researched has to do with time. Scientists and mathematicians across Europe are trying to evaluate the riffs of time in order to control it. Science has proven that time can be manipulated, but with very strong repercussions. Looking back, I would say the first two novellas take the time to explain the development of this branch of science, while the other two deal with the political repercussions of time manipulation.
I don’t want to reveal too much about the stories because truthfully, they deserve to be read with an open and fresh mind. However, I really want to generate some curiosity for this book. For a world so rich in detail, I wouldn’t say the same thing for the characters. Sure, their history and situations explain their emotions and the reason for their actions very well, but because there isn’t a true main character, I think the author was limited and possibly didn’t want to favor one character over the other. Áine and Aidrean Ó Deághaidh come close to being main characters, she the Queen of Éire, and he one of her commanders and personal guards. Their stories are definitely intertwined but their timelines don’t necessarily follow one another. So when one of the stories concentrates more on one of them, the other character is still present, yet not as prominent.
I’m sorry to say this review doesn’t do the book any justice. Beth Bernobich was kind enough to visit the blog a few weeks back and still I can’t find the right words to describe THE TIME ROADS. It will definitely bring you on a journey that spans 15 years, in a world that is so like ours, yet very different. The science-fiction/fantasy elements merge wonderfully with the amazing story and will keep you wondering until the very end. A book wouldn’t be complete without love, whether it’s the love for a country, love for a ruler or romantic love. All three find their way into the book which, in my opinion, makes it a very accomplished story. This book is also intelligent, wonderfully written and above all, captivating. Don’t let it slip under the radar.
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