A Crown in Time
Message to Utrecht Centraal Reader / QR code scanner
I’m going to start this review with a personal request to any readers of A Crown in Time who have reached here via the QR code that I left inside the book cover.
I hope you like the novel! 🙂
When Jennifer Macaire sent me her paperback I promised to leave it in the “Book Swap” stand in the busy Utrecht Centraal train station (Holland) to help get her an international readership.
If you’re the Utrecht Centraal reader (or someone else ‘further along the reading line’), I’d be very interested in what you think of A Crown in Time, so please do leave a comment below! (Even if it’s only to say that the novel has found a nice new home!)
(And naturally, I’m also interested in everyone else’s views too!)
I’m in an odd place. Last night I received a copy of A Crown in Time by Jennifer Macaire, and I found myself looking forward to my commute to work (Note 1) this morning when I could start reading it.
Note 1: This was a short lived moment.
The train was packed. Standing room only comes as standard on these commuter trains, as does elbows in ribs, and people sneezing in your face is a bonus as common as the cold. Yet I was pleased that I could pull out my paperback. I was the only one in the foyer to the door who wasn’t staring at a phone. And if I could have squeezed myself past the 14 people there and into the carriage itself, I’m sure I’d still be the only one without a phone in their hand.
At least until I pulled it out to make some notes!
Reading a paperback means that other people can see what you’re reading, and in my case people might have judged from the book cover that I was reading a bit of a soppy romantic story; they would have been wrong.
I don’t usually read reviews before I read a book to ensure that I won’t form a pre-biased opinion. This rule was broken with A Crown in Time as I knew that it’s historical fiction.
I’m sure you’re aware from my previous reviews that I’m no fan of history. It’s done and dusted, it’s gone; get over it.
With time travel that’s not necessarily the case, but the point remains – why harp on about something that’s been when there’s a whole exciting new future to look forward to?
Some ‘time travel’ novels treat the past simply as another place with different cultures and values. (Recall L.P Hartley’s quote “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” The methodology of time travel barely comes into it and I’ve generally no time for these novels. Other flavours of historical fiction encompass more time travel – The Time for Alexander Series (also by Jennifer Macaire) is an example of this.
In the Alexander series, the time epoch was the Romans. As far back as this, the culture is so different to what I’m used to that I can no longer relate to it; gladiators, crucifixions, worship of multiple gods and sacrifices, etc.. It’s so far from my normal, that it becomes (morbid / horrific) fiction.
With A Crown in Time we’re whisked back in time to 13th century France within half a page. For me (not Jennifer) this is another place, and for both of us this is another time. I (again, not Jennifer) know nothing of this era – though that’s now changed since reading A Crown in Time.
This is probably a good moment to share the storyline – in checking out other reviews I couldn’t help notice that many of them copied and pasted the text from the book blurb. I’m not going to kid myself (or author Jennifer Macaire) and assume that time2timetravel is your first lookup place for book reviews, so I’ll assume that you’ve already read a couple of reviews and are already familiar with the story line.
But for pure self-containment reasons, the crux of the story is that the main character, Isabelle, is sent back in time to thirteenth century France to stop a boy from joining a crusade. Things happen (see book blurb on right…).
To expand on this a little – if Isabella fails in completing the mission, she’ll die. If she succeeds then she remains in the past but receives a pardon for the crime she’s been accused of in the present.
I mentioned briefly in my review of Angelica’s Time Machine (by Julian Bradbrook) that the idea of being stuck in the past is a cheesy story line with little imagination. Here, it’s almost deliberate so there’s a nice side-step. However, the connection to the present lives on through the novel due to the dire consequences of a failed mission.
That said, I love a point in the novel when Isabelle is reminiscing about the future, and children’s laughter brings her back to the present! 😉
Whether Isabella’s assimilation into the past or achieving a pardon in her present acts as her motivation isn’t made clear, but this last point raises my philosophical eyebrow a shade. People die and wish to leave something behind. For Isabella it’s the complete opposite – she wants to stay alive and leave something in the future.
Jennifer’s writing is like a smooth French wine, warming the senses and gently encouraging thoughts of far-away places. (Obviously I’m talking about a ‘read’ (!) wine here! 😉 )
“What’s your name?”
Sharl. I pronounced it as he did.
Brilliant! I can’t stand it when authors write accents phonetically. But here Jennifer shows exactly how it can be done instead. Isn’t it glorious?!
Even within sections where nothing much happens (e.g. sitting through a church service) Jennifer adds in little nuggets of activity (e.g. a chicken squawking and a priest too angry to give a benediction) to bring in extra dimension and realism.
The aspect I didn’t like was reading about the gruesome cultural aspects that are unfortunately part of the era; lots of raping and expectations from men of having ‘consensual’ sex from women who want something (presumably, not sex to have it).
Isabella spends a lot of time moping about feeling sorry for herself – which is completely understandable, but in the same way there are genres I don’t like reading (e.g. horror, crime / detective) I didn’t want to read about these things (also horror and crime…) I commented on something similar in D.L. Orton’s Crossing in Time, where now I come to think of it, had a main character called Isabelle. Close enough, right?
In theory, A Crown in Time is a stand-alone novel, but I think that rather than standing it’s sitting comfortably on a terrace sipping ice-tea with the “Time for Alexander Series”. Between the books, the style of writing is similar (excellent but less humorous) with a first person female lead character, and the time travel set up is the same.
“How fortunate we cannot see ahead in time, and how ironic it is that I should be the one to say those words.”
Setup and methodology
Each chapter starts with a quote from the “Tempus University Correctors Handbook”. I commented on its accuracy on the time2timetravel facebook page 😉
Simply put, the time travel world is the same as in Time for Alexander. I’m pleased with this because I really like it – why change a winner?!
In The Time for Alexander the Tempus University sends researchers back in time to carry out research assignments. In A crown in Time the Tempus University sends prisoners on death row back in time to correct any mistakes brought about in the past from previous time travelers. If the prisoner fails in their task, they’ll be removed from the time line and the Molasses theory of Time ensures that the (single) time line heals itself in the past.
I don’t want to regurgitate the time travel methodology again so I’ll refer you my coverage of it in my The Road to Alexander review.
Closing and Rating * * * * *
It was clear to see how the plot lines would be tied up at the end of the novel – though as the novel came to a close, I worried that those loose ends would be left flapping around in the wind. Thankfully, all came good!
A Crown in Time is primarily historical fiction, but time travel is responsible for bringing Isabella into history. I was pleased that there were not only comparisons between the historical period and Isabella’s present (for example, comparing natural childbirth in the year 1270 AD with test-tube babies – extra kudos for injecting some futuristic ideas here!) but also references to time. There was a moment I particularly liked when Isabella was reminiscing about the future and children’s laughter brings her back to the present! 🙂
To be brutally honest, I prefer the Time for Alexander novels because of their humour – but this doesn’t take anything away from A Crown in Time because the time travel aspect has a solid backing – and it’s written brilliantly!
Galaxy Ratings * * * * *
Story line * * * *
Writing style * * * * *
Time travel element * * *
Scientific content *
(Note that 1 * doesn’t mean crap, it means not much! 😉 )
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