In one devastating night, Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has travelled not just miles but years from home.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods – a powerful family in the Colonies – and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, his passenger, can find.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveller who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to their target, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home forever.
Time Travelling Pirates who are hunting for a something that could either destroy the world or save their world. Sounds great no? Yes it does. I jumped at the opportunity to read this book and for a whole day, I couldn’t put it down.
The book starts off with Etta, Henrietta for those who like using proper names, who an super talented, socially awkward violinist getting ready for her first proper stage solo. She overhears her favourite person in the whole wide world, Alice, her 90 yr old instructor, telling her mother that she isn’t ready for something and of course she assumes it is the violin recitation and runs off, angry and in tears at the “betrayal”. Naturally she’s mistaken and out of nowhere, in the midst of a cacophony she’s thrown through this hole in time and is brought out of the passage by this other girl Sophia. You with me so far? Good. This was such a great premise.
The book takes us through the minds of Nicholas (whom I love) and Etta (whom I just don’t know) and through their adventures toward finding this device that her mother has hidden. The characters have two things to figure out, where she hid it and when she hid it. There’s one more thing that makes the task difficult; they can’t travel back to a place that they’ve already travelled to because they might risk crossing paths with themselves. We cross Paris, London, Bhutan and the middle east as well, each at different times. Each ‘travel’ is spent looking for clues that only Etta can crack and finding their way to this device that will fix everything.
I love how much research the author has put into each time period and while there are a couple of obvious flaws in the times, the story itself was gripping and engaging till about the last hundred or so pages. Two things spoiled what would have otherwise been an amazing book, first, the character change and second the instalove, which in my opinion just seemed ridiculously forced. Apparently the wormhole can, apart from transporting you through time, also alter your personality. The Etta prewormhole is probably the real Etta (Socially awkward, friendless, lonely and so terribly insecure that she’s ready to lash out at any minute criticism), the Etta postwormhole is Delila Bard from A Darker Shade Of Magic. I can get onboard with the character change, pretend that the Etta prewormhole didn’t happen, which is what I did and the book was pretty fun for a while. Till the instalove happened.
Nicholas is a black man in the 1700s (I think, or was it the 1800s?) and his mother was a slave. His freedom was purchased by his boss who now has him working as a pirate, albeit a legal one, and his minor tasks include running errands for the Ironwoods. Ahem, minor. So you can see why I drew the Delilah Bard comparison. Post wormhole Etta is smart, devilishly witty, loveable by everyone, sacrificing and sharp as a tack. Pre wormhole Etta was none of these things. (I know because I was quite literally pre wormhole Etta for half my life) This makes me feel like the author has moulded post wormhole Etta to be the kind of character that Nicholas (who’s really awesome) would fall in love with. Even then the relationship seems wrong somehow. It feels like the two of them are best friends and are being forced into a relationship by some Bollywood villain.
SPOILERY PORTION: Would you really make out with a guy when your mother is being held captive by a bunch of rowdy men who might do anything to her? Yup, that’s what I thought. SPOILER ENDS.
The author absolutely excels, though, at descriptions and tension. I could picture each thing like it was happening to me (oh god forbid it actually happens) and I loved the pacing for most part of the book. The slowness and the sudden fastness is the thing that most people warned me about but I found myself loving it. It made me feel calm and relaxed and them BOOM! Action. I wish it had retained everything except the romance and it would have been a four star book because it has diversity, female protagonists, pirates, time travelling. EVERYTHING!
I was ready to give this four shining stars and add it to my favourites list but now it’s just a 3 star book. Don’t get me wrong, 3 star books are pretty good reads Its just that this would suit a much younger audience than me. Props to the author for making it diverse though. Makes me respect her a lot. Not to mention her great descriptions, ‘He was tall himself but the captain had seemingly been carved from the rocky shores of Rhode Island.’
I know this seems like a rather bad review but if you do what I did and skim the romance portions of the book this is a pretty good read. This book actually broke another reading slump I was going through and a book that can do that is a pretty good book. Don’t read this if you’re tired of the tropey love in YA books. Read this if you haven’t read ADSOM and if you are looking to read something a little more diverse. Also, Damn what a gorgeous cover.
*I was kindly provided a review copy by Hachette India in exchange for an honest review.
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