Review by John for The Map of Time ~ by Felix J. Palma
A complex multi-layered historical fantasy that weaves real characters with fictitious ones in a story about time travel and the effects of changing history – with H. G. Wells as the central character.
About: A rich and carefree bachelor falls madly in love with a poor East-end London prostitute, and is totally devastated when she becomes the last victim of Jack the Ripper. After years of despondency and a decision to commit suicide, his life is saved by his cousin who hatches a plot to save him by seeking the help of H. G. Wells to send him back in time to prevent the gruesome murder.
A rich London socialite is bored with her life and totally disinterested in the procession of suitors from which she is supposed to choose her husband. Meanwhile an enterprising company has set itself up to transport clients a hundred years into the future to witness the final battle between humans and automatons, and she becomes convinced that the only man for her is Captain Derek Shackleton – the man who is responsible for finally defeating the automatons. But it seems the only man who can help to foster their relationship is H. G. Wells.
H. G. Wells is horrified to find the opening words to his next (unpublished) novel written on a wall next to a man murdered by a weapon which is clearly from the future. It seems that someone from the future is trying to grab his attention, and Wells soon becomes embroiled in a fight to save his life and his destiny. He has a big decision to make as it becomes clear that there may be multiple futures and, indeed, multiple pasts.
John’s Thoughts: Rarely do you come across a story that is so complex and yet so thoughtfully well-structured. There are essentially three different plot lines, but they become ever more intertwined as the novel progresses and races towards its climax. For me the second of the three stories was a bit weaker than the other two, being a bit (actually a lot) more unbelievable, but the novel zips along nonetheless. The book has over 600 pages but it didn’t feel like it and I blew through it in a week, despite it being a very busy period at work.
Palma creates some really strong characters and tells a good story. Wells is clearly the lynchpin of the story, but you also get to meet Bram Stoker, Jack the Ripper, Henry James and Joseph Merrick (the Elephant Man) - among others. I loved that aspect of it, where you get to experience real-life Victorian characters. Whether or not their depictions are true to life – well, it kind of doesn’t matter; it feels like they might be.
In the end I found the complexity of the story both a strength and a weakness. I loved the detail and the nuances, but as things drew to a close I found myself re-reading sections time and again, trying to ensure I understood correctly everything that was happening. But I’m quibbling; this is a really good book. I’d rate it 4.5 stars and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good historical fantasy novel or indeed a good fantasy novel, period. Or are you a science fiction fan or a big follower of Victorian fiction? If so, give it a go. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
P.S. The book has an awesome cover which the image above can’t quite do justice to. Take a look in your local bookshop.
As always John will be answering all comments for this book – it may be a bit slower than usual since our travel is coming into play here very shortly.
Have a great Sunday!