[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]
I love myself a time travel story, and both the premise as well as the cover here caught my eye. Unfortunately, even though ultimately it was a quick an easy read (as opposed to a book I trudged through), I wasn’t sold on the story or the characters.
I think this is due to the prologue letting me expect a more ‘targetted’ time travel story: a group of time travellers (called ‘incumbents’) holed up in a bunker in Prague, the world dying around them due to a nuclear apocalypse. This war having been triggered by a speech made at the Sacre-Coeur in Paris, the group decides to send one of them back in time in order to prevent that man’s lineage from ever starting. But there’s a catch here: these incumbents can only travel using ‘anomalies’ to which they’re attuned, and since they can’t use someone else’s Anomaly, in this case they need to send someone with an Anomaly in Paris. Which turns out to be Léon, an incumbent with too many travels under his belt, who may or may not be able to perform -all- the time jumps needed to alter the past. Léon does jump, but his aim tis to find a budding traveller in 2017 Paris, and guide them to discover their Anomaly, then to perform the required jumps while they’re still ‘fresh’, so to speak. Along with Léon comes the chronometrist, a former traveller who lost her body (and probably her sanity, too), and whose task is to guide the new incumbent.
…And that’s where it started to turn wrong, because for most of the book, the plot felt only remotely touched, with our new incumbent, Hallie, being guided in such a circumvented way that from beginning to end, I’m not sure she really got what she was doing. And I’m not sure why that was, considering one of Léon’s directives (stated in the prologue, no spoiler here) was to guide her once her ‘mission’ was accomplished, but that… didn’t happen? It was weird. It mostly consisted of Hallie stumbling through her Anomaly, ending up in a different period, bumbling around trying not to get in trouble, with the chronometrist taunting her now and then. It tied up in the end, yet I never got rid of the feeling that plot-wise, the book was plodding rather than making progress.
Character-wise, too, I believe that time spent on stumbling around was meant for character development, but in the end, I didn’t get that much of a feel for Hallie and the people around her, and they end up rather boring to me.
Now, to be fair, I really liked the way the novel approached solutions to ‘prevent a person from being born’. In a lot of time travel stories, the usual approach is to kill them (the Sarah Connor effect), which obviously raises its lot of ethical questions. Here, Hallie found (well, was pushed to) other ways, and that was refreshing to see.