Format: Hardcover; 496 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (January 5, 2016)
Destiny is a funny thing. Sometimes we're in control of it while other times someone else pulls the strings, controlling and manipulating it. That's when we become merely a passenger trying to survive the crazy and often wild ride.
The whole concept of Etta being kidnapped from her own time was great way to start the novel. Imagine how powerless you'd feel not knowing exactly where you are, when you are, how you got there, or why someone kidnapped you from your own time. It'd be a little hard to take, yet Etta does so remarkably well. Although, I wish the author had led with this portion of the story instead of starting with Nicholas' prologue section. Don't get me wrong, the prologue is important. It conveyed a defining moment for Nicholas, but it totally confused the heck out of me by having the story jump around the way it did at the beginning. Once I realized who was who and that Etta was jumping around in time, as was Nicholas, trying to figure out what and why everything was happening was really fun. There were quite a few twists and turns with a love story happening smack dab in the middle of all the suspense.
Etta is a strong, smart, quick thinking, and talented teen. She is perhaps a little too composed as everything unfolds. The only thing that truly throws her is the death of her violin teacher, Alice. Somehow her mind immediately sees time travel as something not to be fazed by, but as an opportunity in the making--“This was the danger, the seduction of time travel, she realized—it was the opportunity, the freedom of a thousand possibilities of where to live and how to start over. It was the beauty open to you in your life if you only stopped for a moment to look.” She begins to wonder if she can use it as a way to save Alice. First, however, she needs to figure out why she was taken and how to get home. She quickly realizes she'll need help, and that Nicholas is the most likely person to give it to her.
Nicholas is the bastard son of Augustus Ironwood. He once thought his family (despite his being born black in a time when blacks were thought of as nothing more than slaves) would welcome him into the fold. He possesses the family talent of time travel--a skill not all inherit. But the promises of grand adventures, magic, money, prestige, and what he'd really wanted, acceptance, hadn't been forthcoming. Instead, he finds himself as nothing more than an indentured servant who would aspire to be nothing more than a valet to his own half-brother. He's trying to get out from under his grandfather's thumb with one last job so he can find his own place in the world. A place where he belongs. When Etta shows up, she turns his world upside down. He, however, has a somewhat cynical outlook on love. From what he's seen, “Love was selfish, wasn't it? It made honest men want things they had no right to. It cocooned one from the rest of the world, erased time itself, knocked away reason. It made you live in defiance of the inevitable. It made you want another's mind, body; it made you feel as if you deserved to own their heart, and carve out a place in it.” Yet, through his mentor, Captain Hall, he's seen a different side to relationships so he's not altogether opposed to it. He's just very guarded with his feelings.
The time traveling element in the book was fun. Hopping from one place to another and trying to figure out where the two had ended up after making a jump was enjoyable. Their having to figure out how to get to the next place they need to be added some additional suspense and danger. While there seem to be some huge holes in the understanding of how the traveling is done and why only certain people can do it, I'm hoping we'll get answers in upcoming books.
Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. I really enjoyed the tale. I do, however, wish the romance aspect had gone a little slower. It seemed too much too soon. Add in that you've got a modern girl in a not so modern time with no readily available convenience stores to sell "protection" and, yeah, you could say my mommy senses were tingling. Especially when you consider Etta being only 17 and stranded in a time period where things would not end well if she found herself to be with child. While tame by romance novel standards (a definite Blush rating on the Lisarenee Romance Scale; at the beginning stages of romance where something is just starting to be stirred) it still had markedly more than most young adult novels. It didn't detract from the story, however, it just made me feel old. It reminded me of when my mom took me to see an Officer and a Gentleman and covered my eyes when the sex scenes played. While I vowed I'd never do that to my daughter, I wouldn't recommend this one to those under 12. It's much tamer than what you would see in a R rated movie, but it's definitely geared towards a teen audience. I look forward to reading the next in this series and seeing what wonderful things Ms. Bracken will come up with.