This second in a projected trilogy provides a sumptuous genre-blend of time travel, dark fantasy and post-apocalyptic thriller, along with more complications than answers.
It starts with a literal explosion, as most of the cast of teenagers, adventurers, schoolmasters, changelings, ghosts and duplicated cats hunker down at the crumbling Wintercombe Abbey, desperately trying to master the Chronoptika—excepting Sarah, sent from a ravaged future to destroy the enigmatic device, and Jake, trapped in the London Blitz. While none of them (with good reason) trusts the others, they agree to work together to save Jake, then to rescue his father. Meanwhile, the vicious queen of the Shee seduces and rages, the Victorian spiritualist Alicia meddles and schemes, and the future tyrant Janus sends back his “replicants” to threaten and mock. The fiendishly labyrinthine plot twists back and forth through perspectives and centuries, from England to medieval Florence to the dreamlike illusions of the Summerland, but elegant prose, deft characterization and an acute eye for telling details keep readers anchored. Although none of the characters, all imprisoned in the grips of their selfish obsessions, is particularly likable, the narrative hurtles at a breathless pace, compelling readers to follow to the final cliffhanger.
Gorgeous, atmospheric, and addictive but ultimately frustrating; absolutely necessary wherever the first has fans. (Science fiction/fantasy. 12 & up)