Sunday, April 21, 2013

Historical Fantasy: The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

Publisher: Dutton
Date: April 23, 2013
Format: ARC
Source: publisher
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 450
Reading time: one week

From GoodReads: “You are now a member of the Guild. There is no return.” Two hundred years after he was about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Nick Falcott, soldier and aristocrat, wakes up in a hospital bed in modern London. The Guild, an entity that controls time travel, showers him with life's advantages. But Nick yearns for home and for one brown-eyed girl, lost now down the centuries. Then the Guild asks him to break its own rule. It needs Nick to go back to 1815 to fight the Guild’s enemies and to find something called the Talisman.

In 1815, Julia Percy mourns the death of her beloved grandfather, an earl who could play with time. On his deathbed he whispers in her ear: “Pretend!” Pretend what? When Nick returns home as if from the dead, older than he should be and battle scarred, Julia begins to suspect that her very life depends upon the secrets Grandfather never told her. Soon enough Julia and Nick are caught up in an adventure that stretches up and down the river of time. As their knowledge of the Guild and their feelings for each other grow, the fate of the future itself is hanging in the balance.

My review: I really enjoyed both the historical atmosphere and the fantasy world-building of The River of No Return. The history aspect was very well-done, including a good bit of cultural, social, economic, and political details of 1815 England. Ridgway tended to try to keep her characters in the mindset of their social position during this time, and the characters occupy a nice balance between being anachronistically modern and having their historical aspects over-emphasized.

The fantasy and history combination made for an interesting mix of the serious and a kind of Austenesque lighthearted fun. On the one hand, there's this intense buildup of sect wars, conspiracies, potential riots, and possible doomsdays. On the other, Ridgway throws in humorous references to pop culture (of both Georgian England and the contemporary U.S.) with time travelers bringing back anachronistic objects, speech, and ideas, while the romance between Nick and Julia is a bit like that out of one of those pulp Regency romance novels.

But what makes me most excited for the sequel (I'm assuming from the final chapters that there will be one) is the fantasy. Even though it's technically set in our own world, the novel feels like it's set in a different one that requires much interesting world-building. The book clearly ends with more about this time-traveling business left to be uncovered. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing what else Ridgway has in store and hoping that it will be as delightful as her debut.

Maturity Factor: Sexual references and acts.

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