In this historical fantasy debut, an insurance salesman travels to the ninth century to save a lady love he hasn’t met yet.
Wade Linwood, a 23-year-old auto insurance salesman from Long Island, New York, has synesthesia. This disorder of cross-wired senses might cause, for example, the sight of African violets to conjure the taste of buttered toast. To ease these symptoms (and his carpal tunnel syndrome), Wade visits acupuncturist Dr. Gennadi “Nate” Nesky. In the waiting room, he’s pretty sure that a quadriplegic girl named Kreindel Richter suddenly gains muscle control and acknowledges him. The claim enrages the girl’s father, who insists, “Her face never changes. It can’t.” The day grows weirder during Wade’s appointment. The acupuncture is so effective it temporarily propels his mind into the deep past and onto the property of a leatherworker. Later, at Wheelwright Insurance, an incident with a co-worker results in Wade catching his hand in a slammed glass door. To relieve the agony, he uses a piece of broken glass to prick a sensitive spot above his heel. This flings his mind and body back onto the leatherworker’s land. The man, Wade learns, is Olich the Dyer. The place is Swabia in the Frankish Kingdom of 813 C.E. In this series opener, author Parris (Today You Write the Book, 2015, etc.) shapes his vast historical knowledge into an odd, exhilarating adventure. The year 813—as Wade eventually learns from another time-lost character—is a flashpoint between the crumbling of the Byzantine Empire and the descent into the Middle Ages. While fumbling through a realm of rampant kidnapping, theft, and murder, our hero meets the lovely Kreindia the Strange. She’s also a synesthete but uses the ability/affliction for an oracular power that most take for witchcraft. But soon after Wade and Kreindia meet at the abbey of Sintlas Ow, they are separated by Kreindia’s mission to heal an ill Emperor Charlemagne. Many would be lucky to write a whole series marked by the wit and gift for swashbuckling action and romance that Parris builds into his debut. A joyous—and deviously strange—finale should drive readers to the sequel.
A sharply intelligent and energetic historical fantasy.