My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Well, this volume moved much more quickly than Blackout did! Having read a brief piece written by Ms. Willis thanking those who stood by her as one book spread into two, I think I have a slightly better understanding now of what happened that led to my unhappiness with the way the first book ended. They really shouldn’t be two books, but they couldn’t physically fit into one volume. Or, for many e-readers, one ebook.
It is still a large book! And, as in Blackout, it isn’t always clear just who a character is. I’m reading along happily and all of a sudden, there’s a new main character! Wait, who is this? Has Colin gotten through somehow? Or is it another historian? Or another trip by one of the people we already know? Or – but – …Ms. Willis does a marvelous job of keeping us guessing. And the historians’ habit of using different names on different assignments meant that I didn’t always know which person I was reading about even when I thought I did know who he or she was! The reader has to catch the tiniest details to know that something isn’t quite right, or be left completely surprised at the reveal! The many references to Agatha Christie are definitely meaningful, and I’ve come to believe that I haven’t read nearly enough of her work!
I’ve always considered Ms. Willis a cerebral author, but my emotions were heavily engaged here. The analogy of Polly, Sir Godfrey, and The Admirable Crichton was so apt, and that dreadful business in the Phoenix had me bawling. By the time a hero we’d grown to know and love dearly fell, and fell so, so close to home, I was a basket case.
After finishing this massive duology (which really should count as one enormous book spread across two volumes), you would think that I would be sick and tired of all things Willis and not want to read another word by her for the next year or so. Instead, I want to know, right now, what comes next. I want to read about Eileen and the Vicar, and watch Alf and Binnie grow up. I want to see Polly and Colin’s relationship grow.
I imagine Ms. Willis is rather tired of all of them, though, and happy to rest for a while and remember what it is to live back in this century again. The Oxford Time Travel universe offers so many rich and fascinating possibilities for fiction, and I hope she chooses to write many more novels set in it. I’ll definitely be willing to read them!