In the year 2054, students research the past by living in it. So when Kivrin Engle, a history student at Oxford, enters Brasenose College’s time machine for transport back to 1320s England, no one anticipates any problems.
But her two-week project takes a frightening turn. A mutant virus has been spreading through Oxford, and Kivrin arrives in the past delirious with fever. She is found and taken to a manor house, and when she recovers, she can no longer locate the time machine rendezvous point.
As Kivrin struggles to adjust to a past that’s not quite what she expected, a past where the Black Death is beginning to ravage a mystified, terrified population. With the only people who know where she’s gone seriously ill themselves, will Kivrin ever find her way back to the future? Or has she become a permanent exile in a deadly time?
What can I say about this book apart from the fact that it has something in it that almost every reader will enjoy, and that this is the book that started my love of this particular Author. I had a copy of this lent to me whilst I was laid up with pneumonia, and a friend asked me if I had ever read anything written by the Author; little did they know then that by introducing me to them they would be creating a monster.
There are many characters in this novel, both futuristic and from the past, and the main protagonist is a gripping female student who time travels back to the 1300’s. The way in which this character copes with a time so at odds to her own, with so many restrictions when it comes to women is what makes her a person I immediately could connect with. Throw into the mix the issue of the Black Death and this makes her even more compelling. Throughout the novel the reader can follow her progress as she comes to terms with the times she now finds herself in and can root for her every step of the way. Her determination and courage shines through as the times degenerate into one of sickness and death. The Author is equally generous when introducing their other characters in this book, although there were a few that I thought were rather superfluous to the plot itself; there is the concerned and overworked professor who I felt was the very picture of the stereotypical academic, and also the ‘mother hen’ type character who fussed over everyone and anyone. I didn’t find any of the characters unlikable, and this rather surprised me as there is usually one that I would like to meet a miserable demise.
When it comes to location descriptions and really setting the mood for the 1300’s it is apparent that the Author did a great deal of research into the time period, and the effects the Black Death had on families and attitudes of that time. Unfortunately the editing was not as tight as I would have expected in a novel as gripping and fast paced as this one, and this is the reason for the four thumbs rating. Overall though this is a well written and entertaining book, that keeps the reader turning the pages to the very end.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a great story and/or is interested in historical fiction, sci-fi and fantasy.