In Bennett’s debut novel, a group of adventurers on a mysterious mission journey back in time to a medieval castle.
With a promise of riches, the wealthy, eccentric Gilles Breannan asks debt-ridden video gamer Drake MacKay to accompany him on a trip to the Castle MacQueed, suspended in time circa the year 865. Both men have already honed their battle skills in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group dedicated to the exploration of life in Europe prior to the 17th century. Drake quickly learns he is not the only invitee; others include Gilles’ assistant and lover, Siddonie Velero, and two medical doctors specializing in neonatology (the care of newborn babies) and high-risk obstetrics, respectively. After a tense moment of time travel, the group arrives intact with their supplies at the castle on the North Sea, intent on finding a powerful, priceless book titled The Book of the Angel Raziel. Gilles is tight-lipped about the details of the mission, but everyone on the team has been promised a share of MacQueed’s treasures. As events progress, the journey’s true purpose is revealed and they all find their lives in danger. The novel brings a sense of authenticity to its details of medieval life, which is shown to have a vitality sorely missing in the present age. However, the characters offer flimsy justifications for accompanying Gilles, persuasive though he may be, considering the trip’s potential hazards. Scotsman Gilles’ “dinna ask me questions” approach will likely frustrate readers, as it seems obvious that the characters would demand answers before committing to such a venture. Overall, the story is intriguing but occasionally confusing, as viewpoints switch and present-day characters are matched to medieval counterparts. That said, the tale builds momentum to become an engaging, action-packed ensemble piece in its final chapters. By the end, Drake seems poised to be a hero, but Gilles wins the day with his stubborn dedication to his mission.
A well-told, if occasionally implausible, time-travel tale.