I’ve been a book blogger for a while now, 8 months or so. I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing something RIGHT, because I recently got an email from a publisher offering me a free book! Now, this is not the first time I’ve been offered a book, but it IS the first time I’ve accepted one, since time constraints and/or lack of interest have prevented me from taking them in the past. You’re supposed to be VERY CLEAR AND UP FRONT when you review a book you’ve gotten for free. HEY INTERNET! I GOT THIS BOOK FOR FREE!
Now that we have the formalities out of the way… I got an email offering me a copy of The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway. I was intrigued because the email claimed that fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander would like this book. I was intrigued, but also a little wary. I mean, was I in for a poorly executed copy of Gabaldon’s awesomeness? I’m not very nice when that happens…
I needn’t have worried. This book had elements I’ve seen in other places, but they were woven together into something completely original and enthralling. If you took the time travel romance element of Outlander and combined it with the conspiracy theory aspect of, say, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, added a some of the magical bits from The Night Circus, and put it in a blender with a chocolate milkshake, you’d get close to The River of No Return. It’s delicious.
Without getting super spoiler-happy, I’ll give you the lowdown. Nick Falcott is a Georgian-era English aristocrat who decides to fight in the Napoleonic wars. Just as he’s about to be done in by a Frenchman, he vanishes into thin air and re-materializes in 2003. Oops. He’s rescued by a mysterious group known as “The Guild” who locate accidental time travelers and help them re-acclimate to the time they’ve jumped into. The Guild provides the unwitting time travelers with money and sets up new lives for them in new countries. They also force them to learn medieval Finnish. (A secret society has got to have SOME quirks, right? They can’t ALL speak Latin, for heaven’s sake.) Anywho, Nick gets all situated with his indoor plumbing and his blue jeans and indulges his affinity for homemade stinky cheeses and beautiful women for a good 10 years. All is well until he receives a summons from The Guild…
Meanwhile, in 1815, Julia Percy is super sad because her grandpa kicks the bucket and she’s stuck with her douchey cousin as heir to the manor (or castle. They call it a castle, but as there are no crowns involved, I don’t think it counts.) Julia doesn’t realize her grandfather’s gift of freezing time is anything more than a strange game the two played. Of course she realizes it’s not NORMAL to go around stopping time, but she has no idea just how important she will be to The Guild, their enemies, and Nick (bow chicka bow wow).
Okay. I need to stop talking before the spoilers happen. Here’s some stuff I loved. First, there were some seriously funny one-liners in this book. I laughed out loud several times (particularly when Nick pondered his existence as “just a dude.”) Second, despite having a very science-y twist with the time travel, it was very accessible to me. The idea that time travel was facilitated by feelings and the flow of human history rather than, like, equations and black holes made me really happy. Third, time travel brings all sorts of fun colorful characters together who wouldn’t normally get to hang out. Gender bending teen from the 80s is like BFF with a medieval Swedish turnip farmer? It’s awesome.
My only complaint, if I can even call it that, is that the book left a lot of unfinished business. I assume (and hope… nay DEMAND!) that this is the first in a series of novels, because if it isn’t, I might cry. The concepts aren’t new, but the take is fresh and FUN. If you liked Outlander or Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore or The Night Circus or just generally enjoy books that don’t suck? Check out The River of No Return. Bee Ridgway, you’ve got yourself an admirer right here.
Alright, Bookworms. Since we’re talking time travel here, if you could go back to any point in history, where would you go? Why? Would you try to smuggle in deodorant, toilet paper, and contact lenses? (Because I totally would…)