Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly accepts an invitation from a millionaire to act as a guide to time-travelling tourists. But while attending a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810, he becomes marooned in Regency London, where dark and dangerous forces know about the gates in time. Caught up in the intrigue between rival bands of beggars, pursued by Egyptian sorcerers, befriended by Coleridge, Doyle somehow survives. And learns more about the mysterious Ashbless than he could ever have imagined possible.
The Author creates all the characters in such a compelling way, even those that play a supporting role that the reader finds themselves wanting more, unfortunately this never comes. A tantalizing amount of time is spent with each of the character, but it is never enough; this leaves the reading feeling they have spent barely enough time with each of them before they are gone. There were simply never enough of these characters, and it left me feeling cheated, and wanting more of them.
One of the problems I found with this novel, and I am not sure if it was intentional on the part of the Author, was there is so much packed into a mere 380 pages. In this small space the reader encounters Beggar’s guilds, Egyptian wizards, Romantic poets and business magnates; prize fighters mix with cross dressing vengeance seekers, mad clowns, body snatchers, fire elementals and gypsies. They are subject to time slips that bounce them from 1810 to 1983 to 1660 and back into the 1800’s at such a pace that I felt I needed motion sickness pills to get me through but, despite all this jumping the Author manages to keep the plot following a linear path of cause and effect. On the negative side of all this time jumping there are huge gaps; the story moves on too quickly leaving the reader wanting more of the unfulfilled promise of sweeping and epic adventures. All of this is, however, extremely effective. It makes the reader want to continue through the novel, joining in with the good old fashioned chases. It is also the downfall of this piece of writing.
Being left wanting more can be a good thing, particularly with this kind of high fantasy and fast paced adventure read but, in the case of this novel I found it to be extremely frustrating. To counter this feeling of frustration one of two things could have been done by the Author; either increase the story to match the scale of the book or reduce the epic scale of the book itself, with either of these alterations this book could have become so much more than it is, an entertaining sci-fi fantasy adventure.
In the end this novel is far more time travel than Steampunk and leaves the reader feeling more than a little short-changed and frustrated. Regardless of these shortcomings, reading this book is not a waste of time and I would recommend it to those lovers of the time travel genre and also people who enjoy a good old fashioned adventure story.