James takes a well-worn trope—lovers reincarnated across time—and gives it a spin.
Katherine and Matthew, both white, exist in four different times: 1745 Carlisle, 1854 Crimea, 2019 England, and 2039 England, where the latest incarnations stumble on a mystery surrounding their 2019 selves (who are also their respective aunt and uncle). This is a lot for an author to manage; despite clear planning, the execution is often weak. Both the 1745 and 1854 storylines combine anachronistic dialogue with weak characterization, while the 2039 future tantalizes but never comes across clearly. Meanwhile, insta-love flattens what should be swoony emotional beats throughout. In the 2019 section, Katherine and Matthew (seen only through their correspondence) have an engaging dimensionality (even if they also seem like lovesick teens rather than the professional researchers they are supposed to be). The other timelines, with two similar typefaces for the past and a quite different one for the future, combine “primary source” documents and third-person narration but lack the presence of the 2019 versions. The conspiracy surrounding the 2019 deaths creates a much-needed sense of tension, considerably enlivening the 2019 and 2039 sections. Unexplained brief inserts commenting on the various timelines similarly evoke a larger plot; the authorial decision to leave this feature unexplained leads to a needlessly confusing and unresolved ending.
An ambitious, promising premise ultimately disappoints but still marks James one to watch. (Science fiction/romance. 13-18)