Genre

Middlegrade, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Time Travel

Audience

11 & Up

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2023

Themes

Friendship, teamwork, survival, first impressions, working together, loyalty, courage

 

Reviewed by

Corinna Turner

Newly-promoted Joan Sinclaire is thrilled to be ordered to assemble her own squad to serve on Langshore’s groundbreaking ‘ethercraft,’ a ship that can travel through time and dimensions. The ship is Langshore’s best—perhaps only—hope of repelling the invasion by the brutal forces of Absoleth. She succeeds in piecing together a hodge-podge crew at incredibly short notice, only for the maiden voyage to go horribly wrong, leaving them stranded in another dimension, the rest of the crew dead, and the precious paradox engine missing. Can her band of misfits make it home before Absoleth destroys everything they hold dear?

This is not an overtly religious book, with no reference to God at all other than a few brief prayers at key moments unlikely to offend any but the most atheistic of readers, but it is clean and wholesome fare that will be appreciated by many Christian readers. The themes of friendship, courage, and not judging by first appearances will appeal to readers of faith. Humor also pervades the book throughout.

The ages of the main characters are not specified, although they are old enough to be functioning as adults in their war-torn, historical fantasy world. Since they are referred to as teenagers, they must be between about sixteen and nineteen years old. Despite this, this book seems most appropriate for Middle Grade through to early teens due to the tone and content and is probably only appropriate for the most sheltered mid to older teen readers. There are a few references to romantic feelings but nothing happens (leaving aside a kiss on the forehead that has surprising results!).

The pace of the book is fairly relaxed—it is more of an ‘along for the ride’ kind of story. Which is to say that finding out how the group of misfits will learn to get along provides far more forward momentum than their actual predicament. The only irritating aspect is that, for a while, Joan (the commanding officer of the group) considers no one should be in charge and everyone should simply work together as equals, despite the fact that it’s in a crisis that military discipline ought most to come into its own. This notwithstanding, the team- and friendship-building aspect of the plot is otherwise very satisfying.

Two things that were done extremely well were in fact the way that many of the main characters come across somewhat negatively on first introduction, yet throughout the course of the book are revealed to be likeable characters with much to offer. This mirrors real life, whereby we can be far too quick to judge by surface appearances and think badly of or even dismiss others.

The second thing that was very well done was the introduction of so large a group of characters in such a way that each one was distinct and memorable from the start. Usually with so large a cast there is a serious risk of confusion for readers with less acute memories, but this book handles it exceptionally well.

Some of the secondary, non-human characters were particularly charming, such as Seven the spider and the two Shadow Spirits. Hopefully all play some role in the next book.

The only other criticism would be that the ending was extremely abrupt, with many plot and character arcs totally unresolved. However, it is book one of two, and clearly makes no pretense to be anything other than the first half of a larger whole. Book two is already available, so readers can continue straight on with the story.

There are a few typos and other errors but nothing that seriously mars enjoyment of the book.

Readers uncomfortable with magic, especially fairly traditional-looking wizardry, may not appreciate this book. There are also two characters who have been living on the streets and picking pockets to survive. One is uncomfortable about stealing, but the other is not, and this remains unresolved at the end of book one. That aside, this book would suit most readers, whether secular or Christian, who enjoy traditional, wholesome, and humorous children’s literature.

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