Book Review: Anubis Gates

If you like complicated time-travel fantasy books, then I have a book recommendation for you: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Its premise is that time travel is possible if one knows where certain “gaps” in the flow of time are. It was a difficult read for me, but those that enjoy adult sci-fi of the time travel variety might enjoy this.

What Is Anubis Gates About?

From GoodReads:

Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly accepts an invitation from a millionaire to act as a guide to time-travelling tourists. But while attending a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810, he becomes marooned in Regency London, where dark and dangerous forces know about the gates in time. Caught up in the intrigue between rival bands of beggars, pursued by Egyptian sorcerers, befriended by Coleridge, Doyle somehow survives, and learns more about the mysterious Ashbless than he could ever have imagined possible.

Why Would a Reader Like or Dislike This Book?

While I think this premise had great potential, I didn’t think this book fulfilled it in the way I would like to have seen. Once Doyle gets stuck back in 1800’s England, the plot becomes really convoluted. He goes from one life-threatening situation to another, and then even from one body to another, with little or no time spent by the author on emotional development or plot building.

Most really good books, even adult sci-fi ones, are those that have main characters that grow, that start out as something, go through a bunch of challenges, and end up as wiser, more mature versions of themselves. Doyle starts out as a likable character, and does indeed go through a bunch of challenges, but ends up living out Ashbless’s life, which the reader doesn’t care about, by virtue of the fact that the story’s supposed to be about Doyle.

So, if you like hard sci-fi, time travel books, books containing werewolves, you might like this book. If you don’t, don’t read it.

Book Review: The Time Key, a Charming Read

It’s been more than a week since I posted my last review, which puts me behind schedule! For those of you who eagerly await each new post of mine, and are disappointed by this lag, bless you and I apologize. For those of you who don’t mind a little wait as long as the reviews are good and helpful, bless you too. You guys are all awesome. I’ve been looking for a job (as an editor, of course), beta reading a friend’s manuscript, reading four books, and writing my own, among other things. I could tell you all about Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore, a book that describes the ketogenic diet that I’ll probably be starting in a couple of weeks, but I don’t know if you’d be interested. If you are, let me know. I did finish The Time Key by Melanie Bateman, and thought you’d like to know about it.

What The Time Key is About

It’s about a time machine that looks like a pocket watch, shadows that move on their own, a man who misses his dead wife and daughter so desperately that he wants to kill himself, and a mugging. Stanley, that man, finds that he holds the Time Key because he saved someone from being mugged, a coincidental diversion from his own suicide attempt. He also finds himself the guardian of a five-inch tall “vaelie,” or fairy-like girl. Stanley’s story, told by an unnamed narrator other than himself, takes him from those dramatic circumstances backwards and forwards in time as he seeks to exorcise his own inner demons and save others whom he meets from demonic shadows as well.

What’s Great About The Time Key

The voice. Oh my goodness, the voice. It’s told, as I mentioned, by a narrator who sounds like someone standing backstage relating what’s happening on stage (Stanley’s life) to someone who can’t see. Take this paragraph, for example:

It is possible that the beginnings of stories are best when they reflect the happy events of life, simple moments that Stanley Becker missed. Or they might observe critical events that can alter and change the path of life. Throughout my travels, I have seen many things and met many people, but none of their stories have impacted me as much as Stanley’s. I often find myself returning to this particular night, where I see Stanley’s hunched figure motionless in the cold December night of 1897.

It’s that voice, the slight distance of it from Stanley’s heart, that balances out the dramatic events of his life after he gets the Time Key. If it were told in first-person, from his point of view, as he goes from abject depression to elation and back and forth all over time, I wouldn’t have been able to read to the end. I would’ve been too stressed.

Stanley himself is a good, sweet character too. He’s real and broken, but a very good person at heart who tries to protect as many people as he can.

What Could Have Been Better

The connection between Stanley, the Time Key, and his desire to be rid of the grief he feels for his wife and daughter was very opportune, and really drove the first half of the book. Who wouldn’t want to wind back the hands of time to be with lost loved ones, if one could? Stanley gets that opportunity, and he takes advantage of it, but (spoiler alert) he can’t stay in the past with them forever and he can’t bring them to his present, so he eventually has to let them go. Once he does, the emotional core of the story is gone. From then on, it’s just Stanley trying to evade the shadows who will kill him for the Time Key and a treasure they think it contains, and trying to rescue the man who gave him the Time Key, who he only met twice and didn’t know. The second half of the book seems almost to be a different story, a good one, but a different one, nonetheless.

Who Would Like This Book

If you like books with magic, you’ll like this book. If you like time travel books, you’ll like this one, although I can’t think of any time travel books that I know of that are similar to this. If you’re looking for romance, you won’t find it in The Time Key. There is a little bit of violence. No swearing, no sex. Some valor. A good amount of happiness.

 

Book Review: Topaz Reign, a Gem of a Read

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted because I was asked to review the second book in a duology and had to read the first book in the series before I could read the second one and give it a fair review. Plus, life has been busy with Utah Valley Writer commitments, school visits, and doctor appointments. I’m glad I got to read Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards, the sequel to Emerald Bound. Both were based very loosely on different fairy tales and had little bits of time travel and immortality, making them genre-bending and somewhat hard to compare to any other published books. Ultimately, though, they were both good reads, Topaz Reign decidedly more so than Emerald Bound.

Emerald Bound

Maggie Rhodes, a high school junior and very curious teenager, learns the true roots of the tale of the Princess and the Pea after a spying attempt goes awry and her best friend Kate ends up as the victim of an ancient curse. Maggie discovers that an enchanted emerald that feeds on life is under the control of some people who use the power granted by the emerald to not age, and that it found its next victim in Kate. She meets Lindy, a school acquaintance with a mysterious past, and Garon, a handsome stranger claiming he knows how to help, and embarks on a quest to destroy the emerald and restore Kate.

I’ve compared the plots of various books to different kinds of woven textiles, like a rug in the case of The Fifth Doll by Charlie Holmberg, so in that same spirit, I’d like to compare this book’s plot with that of a loom-woven rug with a very loose weft. What I mean by that is that the weaving together of all the details presented in the first ten chapters of the story to set it up, came together in such a way that I feel like I could still see holes through them. There were some details that seemed to contradict themselves, as in the fact that Maggie describes her arms being frozen to the arms of a wooden chair by Calista, one of the people using the emerald’s power, on page 111, but then a few paragraphs later, says she “clutched at [her] middle,” and some details that didn’t seem quite plausible, like the fact that the creator of the magic emerald put into it a way for it to be destroyed, but his motive for doing so, though crucial to the resolution of this story’s conflict, is never given, not even to Garon, who spent several centuries trapped in time with the creator. Now, it’s entirely possible that I missed other details in the story that make these things clearer or more plausible, and if so, I hope someone will correct me, but these were details that took me out of the story a little bit.

Topaz Reign

I’m glad that I read Emerald Bound, though, not only for the overall story itself and the very satisfying ending, but also because Topaz Reign made so much more sense after reading the first book. You really can’t read the second book in this series without having read the first one. Here’s what Topaz Reign  is about (be forewarned that I have to spoil Emerald Bound’s plot a little bit to tell you):

Upon the destruction of the emerald, Lindy is sent back to the time and place she would have been if she had not been kidnapped as a baby, eventually sold to Calista, and kept in bondage by her for 400 years. Turns out Lindy was the princess of the Princess and the Pea fairy tale, and the soon-to-be queen of a tiny Scandinavian country. Topaz Reign starts, for her, seven years after she was sent back, shortly after she assumes the throne. Maggie, for whom time passes more slowly in the present day, keeps an eye on her from the history books, and notices chilling changes in them that indicate that Lindy went from the frying pan into the fryer. Garon, who is Lindy’s brother and now Maggie’s boyfriend, goes back in time to help Lindy, but things get so bad that he has to return to the future, get Maggie and her brother Tanner, and take them back with him to Lindy’s time to help save her and her kingdom. They also have to destroy a giant topaz created by the same man who created the emerald so that they can restore their own mother to her rightful mind, and they do this with the help of Bea, one of their mother’s caretakers and, as it happens, the Thumbelina of fairy tale. All that with the possible but dubious help of a giant pearl that O, the creator of the topaz and the emerald, also made.

Like the first book, this one relies on a lot of details coming together at just the right times and places, but these details are more tightly-woven this time. We finally meet O, if only briefly, and some people’s motives are more clear. There were still some fraying “threads,” if you will, that decrease the story’s plausibility slightly, but overall, it’s a very intense, fun read, somewhat reminiscent of K.B. Wager’s Behind the Throne. The author is great at descriptions. If you like speculative fiction, young adult romances, magic, or fairy tale re-tellings, you’ll like these books.

Nutrition facts? No swearing. No sex or nudity. Some violence (sword fighting, etc.).

Star rating? 7 out of 10 stars, for great characters, awesome voice(s), cool premise, and a rich plot.

Full disclosure? I got free copies of both books from the author, but my opinions would’ve been the same if I’d bought them.