Thumbs up for The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich. Fantasy.
What? Doth my brain deceive me? Steampunk that is actually well-written? Oh my. I can see that having access to publisher’s advance reading copies is going to be a dangerous business. I started reading at work around 5:00pm, expecting to try a few pages and then on to the next thing. But the first line of the acknowledgments immediately made me perk up – “Twelve years ago, I sat down to write a story about mathematics and murder and time”; and then I could not put the damn thing down until I finished at 12:45am, with only a short break to be sociable to my roommate over dinner. I was expecting the usual kitchen-sink sort of thing, probably with a cringe-inducing love triangle thrown in because no one can seem to resist that these days. What I got was, in fact, mathematics, and murder, and fractured time, and a beautifully understated bittersweet love story, and politics and spy intrigue in a fascinating alternate history. The Time Roads takes place over the period of 1900-1914 (with a time reboot in there too: oh be still my heart!) in a world where Ireland (Éire) is one of the most powerful nations in the world. The story consists of four parts: the first and fourth narrated by the Queen of Éire; the second following a mathematician whose life is…more complex than it first appears; and the third part following the Queen’s right-hand man as he does some spying on the Continent. The writing is elegant, the pacing just right, and when I reached the last page I found myself very sad that it was not a series, because I loved the characters so much. If you want everything handed to you on a platter, you will probably find the plot confusing. I know I didn’t follow all of the political intrigue, and the time fractures certainly didn’t simplify things. I didn’t care. In fact, it made me want to know more about European history in that time period in our universe, so I can re-read The Time Roads and get all of the allusions. Terrible cover, terrible title, brilliant book. Highly recommended.
If he doubted my father’s ability to understand the answer, he made no sign of it. But one question led to a barrage of others from the Court scientists. Those batteries, what were they, and what charge did they produce? Was it purely electricity his device used? If so, what role did those glass tubes perform? A modified Leclanché cell, Ó Cuilinn replied. Ammonium chloride mixed with plaster of Paris, sealed in a zinc shell, each of which produced 1.5 volts. He was corresponding with a collective of scientists from Sweden and the Dietsch Empire, concerning a rechargeable battery with nickel and cadmium electrodes in a potassium-hydroxide solution. Yes, the results would certainly prove more reliable. Also, more expensive. (Here the councilors muttered something about how these research men always demanded more money.) As for the role of the batteries, they were purely to start the necessary reactions. He would rather not discuss the further details until His Majesty and the gentlemen had observed the machine’s performance.
I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The quoted section HAS NOT been checked against the final print edition because the final print edition is not yet available.
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