**Thank you to Booktrope for providing me with a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**
I truly wish I were able to post half-stars because this is certainly a 3.5/5-star book for me because of the novel’s inconsistency. It’s a novel of extremes: what’s done well, is done really well; but what’s not done so well becomes a serious problem for the reader.
First, the positives: these characters are great. Truly, the team of characters assembled in this novel are such a joy to read. Our protagonist, the titular Aralias Lyons, is a Victorian-era version of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor – specifically that Doctor’s predilection for stream-of-consciousness speeches that took place at top speed. Combine that with a snarky gruffness of an Indiana Jones-type and a wonderful devotion to his son and, well, that’s Aralias Lyons in a nutshell. I praise Ms. Horvath’s ability to capture what we in the 21st century see as Victorian-era speech and keep with the speech pattern consistently throughout the novel because it’s one of those things that, for me, helped shape Aralias more clearly in my mind.
Aralias has the potential to become a true conundrum within his own story, particularly in his interactions with Clara Heartwell. Clara is introduced early into the story and swiftly becomes a romantic interest for Aralias. While I admit that the two of them together had some lovely moments – especially in the last third – I never truly bought into their chemistry. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, especially when it comes to books on time travel, but their romance never clicked with me. I just simply didn’t buy it, no matter how much I wanted to.
Speaking of time travel, I never really did wrap my head exactly around how it all worked. There were scattered puzzle pieces I thought I understood, but if you asked me to explain to you the mechanics of this novel’s time travel, I wouldn’t be able to.
The writing is simple, but that doesn’t dampen the vividness of its imagery. When Ms. Horvath describes the segments where we, as the reader, travel through time with Aralias and experience multiple different spaces in time, her writing is full and lush – it’s all technicolour with high saturation. Unfortunately it does mean the rest of the book’s writing and storytelling is left rather grey. This novel could have used another round or two of edits in order to help the cadence and flow of the story: it’s terribly uneven and makes for a less-desirable reading experience. A shame given what parts of the story flow well are supremely entertaining.
I would recommend this book more for readers of Young Adult literature, as the pacing of the story and the simplicity of the writing combined with the romantic angle between Aralias and Clara combine to form a final product that I think will appeal more to that demographic of readers.