[I don’t have the temperament to write reviews so from now on I am going to call my “reviews” of books and media and other such things “enthusiasms.”]
It turns out Beth Bernobich’s novel THE TIME ROADS is what’s called a “fix-up novel,” in which linked stories, collected into a single volume, tell a fuller story when read together than they do when read separately because of their shared narrative elements. Normally I might be a bit skeptical that I could enjoy a novel of linked pieces as much as a complete seamless novel; I might even doubt that such a technique could tell as full a story as a novel in terms of a full narrative arc and growth and change within complex characterization.
Fear not, Bernobich manages it easily in this entertaining, well-done, and often sobering tale.
I’m not going to give you a run-down of the plot or characters except to say that it is a finely-wrought alternate history that follows the reign of a young queen of Eire (Ireland).
These are some of the things I most appreciated about THE TIME ROADS:
1) The writing is strong both stylistically (it’s a pleasure to read such assured prose) and in terms of how expertly Bernobich deploys detail and action in the right amounts.
2) The world-building is aces. I’m a hard sell on world-building, and Bernobich does SO MUCH both in terms of limning her setting and in suggesting how this alternate history departs from our own. I could read a trilogy set in this world. It’s fascinating, rich, and remarkable in how much she implies without any infordumping.
3) The science and math of time travel, and the unfolding of brilliant minds at work untangling strange and esoteric questions, intrigued me mightily.
4) Deft characterization that flows through all four stories regardless of who is the point of view character. I believed in all the interactions, in the highs and lows, approaches and retreats, the triumphs and defeats, and watching the two main characters mature and age and live their lives was so satisfying. The story isn’t a comedy, and isn’t quite tragedy; it has the feel of lived lives, hard choices, bitter draughts, and quiet victories.
Just a lovely book that I’m so glad to have read.
Published by Tor Books in the USA, in trade paperback and ebook.