Debut author Bassett offers a sci-fi/fantasy novel about time travel, rare coins and life in the country.
On his 15th birthday, Charles finds himself unexpectedly ushered into a strange, exclusive world. His beloved grandparents tell him he is one in a long line of family members with a peculiar gift for time travel. As grandfather Carson helpfully explains, “We are considered an elite type of coin collector and time traveler called a Sojourner. We are not typical coin collectors in that we belong to a secret society.” What follows are Charles’ adventures as he learns the ways of the Sojourners while maintaining the outward appearance of an average boy in the country. He is, after all, spending the summer with his grandparents and has ample time for home cooking, lake swimming and falling in love with a local girl. The story is a lengthy adventure that seesaws back and forth between the average and the wildly strange; days of peach tea drinking follow fantastical environments that involve everything from complex, otherworld politics (including a post of prime minister that Charles finds of great interest) to a talking bird (who becomes fast friends with a talking frog). Without giving way to fantasy clichés, the book succeeds in creating a place that is unlike those found in other stories featuring time travel and talking creatures. But it’s not terribly economical. Long periods of exposition will tend to lose readers rather than engage them, particularly where great attention is paid to items of little significance, as when describing mail delivery through the passage Sojourners use for their magical travel: The envelope “was sealed with an ornate purple wax seal on the same side. Charles bent down and peered at it closer. It was actually a bundle of envelopes tied together with a deep purple ribbon.” Elsewhere, the earnest dialogue states the obvious: “Charles said enthusiastically, ‘Great! It looks like we will be going on another adventure soon.’ ”
Imaginative in its construction of a fantastical world, but the story proceeds at a sluggish, less-than-fantastical pace.