on October 14, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF
*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.
Éire is one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Anglian Dependencies are a dusty backwater filled with resentful colonial subjects, Europe is a disjointed mess, and many look to Éire for stability and peace. In a series of braided stories, Beth Bernobich has created a tale about the brilliant Éireann scientists who have already bent the laws of nature for Man's benefit. And who now are striving to conquer the nature of time.
“The sun never sets on the Irish Empire.” This cool sentence is on the cover of The Time Roads, if you can get past the goofy dude with the hat. I loved the idea of an Irish Empire, and I snapped this puppy up! The 4 short stories format sounded different and promising, and I enjoy me a good steampunk novel.
Sadly, I consider The Time Roads to be a study in mediocrity. (I’d like to think that isn’t as harsh as it sounds.) it’s just that there wasn’t anything ground shaking exempting the idea of an Irish Empire. As such, that concept was never really fleshed out, with a map or with detailed descriptions on the beginnings of the empire or it’s place in the current world.
The promising 4 short story format fell flat at the end of each story. It felt like they were just amping up to be something good then…. pmmphh! Over. They also didn’t flow particularly well together, more like they just happened to be in the same novel. The thread (prime numbers having something to do with time travel) that held them together was tenuous and, to me, uninteresting. Here are my thoughts for each story:
Book One: “The Golden Octopus”
This is the story of Aine Lasairiona Devereaux (no pronunciation guide) Queen of Eire (Irish Empire). She takes the throne after her father’s unfortunate death and has to keep her empire together and growing. Eire is the largest superpower in the world, and they need to stay at the top to avoid a civil war with the Anglians (English?) and also avoid war their the power hungry Prussians.
Shortly after her coronation, Queen Aine is assigned a special guard for her safety, Aidrean O’Deaghaidh whose special blend of talents leave him especially suited to the task. Their personal attraction is immediate, intense and fully ignored by each individual. All it seems to do is spoil other relationships for them. When Queen Aine decides to continue Eire’s scientific growth she puts all the eggs in the basket of Doctor Breandan Reid O’Cuilinn a scientist who inspired her during her fathers reign. View Spoiler »His work was a giant golden octopus which was able to send items into the future. They eventually become lovers, which I found to be a little repugnant and highly unbelievable. The book tried to set up an idea for the monarch's "favorite" as a precedence, but it really seems ludicrous when there is no royal marriage or heir already in existence. Her obsession with the time travel work feels unhealthy and tainted by the sexual association with the doctor. Just as the Queen is coming into herself and becoming interesting... « Hide Spoiler poof. End of story.
Book Two: “A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange”
Book two is about university student Siomon Madoc. I felt a great connection with Siomon, and this was my favorite story out of the four. Siomon is worried because of strange murders that are happening at the University… and his strange feeling that something is not quite right with him. His trips to visit his sister, who is in an insane asylum muttering prime numbers, is well placed with Siomon’s worry for his own sanity. This is by far the most complete and interesting story. It’s ending is tantalizing more than disappointing.
Book Three: “Ars Memoriae”
Aidrean O Deaghaidh is our star in this tale. Tasked by the Queen to find out about a possible Anglian uprising, Aidrean O Deaghaidh is sent to spy on the interesting and well developed land of Montenegro. While there, he stumbles upon a mystery that has not only treason and suspense, but dangers that are related to time itself. This story felt like a novel to me, but Aidrean O Deaghaidh tends to fall a bit flat in it. As our main character he is so….. repressed. The story is fantastical and fairly even paced. The information with prime numbers is again hinted at, but actual development towards solving the mystery is not forthcoming which was very frustrating. It took me forever to read this one.
Book Four: “The Time Roads”
Back to where we started, this book takes the point of view of Aine, Queen of Eire. With dangerous threats and pieces coming together from previous stories we are finally given a glimpse of the author’s idea of time and space. There is action ad suspense, and plenty of explanation given in this story. I found it to be tiresome and a bit long winded.
Overall, I found The Time Roads to be long and slightly boring. I didn’t care for the hints of where the book was going and the final explanation seemed silly to me. The characters feel repressed and I didn’t really understand any of the romantic connections. This wouldn’t have bothered me, but they were a major part of the story. For them to all feel off was a big disappointment. Everyone running around doing their duty was kind of boring. I like people doing things for passion, or interest or because they are really really good at it. The short story format took away from the novel by stopping when things were finally getting interesting. I think a multiple narrator sequence would have been more appropriate. The way it was written there is a lot of set up and very little action. I am glad to be moving on.