Timepiece by Heather Albano
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Timepiece by Heather Albano
As I've protested before, Steampunk is not my genre. Nor am I a fan of history although I'm not entirely bereft of some grasp of historical events. So, when the book begins at Waterloo in the midst of battle I'm pretty sure I have a grasp of where we are and what the outcome should be. Although I must admit that as I often do before giving a review I paused at some point to recite aloud to Virginia a few items I enjoyed about the book with a brief synopsis of the book itself. So when I started to mention Waterloo and came stuck upon the name of the British duke, Virginia was quick to fill in the blanks with a confident: Wellington. You see it pays to be a reader of romance novels now doesn't it. Virginia's genre is Romance.
I thus felt it fell upon me to check what I could. You see the book hinges entirely on being in a world where there are monsters much like Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. These monstrosities were created, by the British, prior to this battle and are now being held in reserve. The biggest puzzle would seem to be the why, to Wellington using them. Was there a change in the original battle that made matters worse for Wellington's troops or are we to believe that Wellington's confidence in his green troops is so low that the change mostly comes from having such a thing in reserve as these monsters as enough to tempt Wellington. It's a difficult puzzle even so because it would seem that Wellington is not happy about his own decision which leads on into history by placing his name upon the whole thing by calling these creatures Wellingtons monsters. Giving them the glory for the victory and taking it away from his troops.
If I see things correctly this leads to the Steampunk nature of the story revolving around the events that follow this great battle.
But we don't get there directly since the main characters are still within this same time sphere which is what makes this primarily a time travel novel over Steampunk. Elizabeth Barton is anything but a prim an proper young lady. Perhaps she'd be best described as a tomboy despite the efforts of her parents and her aunt. Let me say her aunt is singularly cruel above and beyond the call of duty as regards molding Elizabeth into a fine young marriageable woman. At the age of seventeen Elizabeth is hardly ready to settle down with any suitor. She receives on this day in the mail a strange watch that not only has multiple dials but also a strange movable picture. (Definitely something not of this time.)
Next is William Carrington, a former military man who was wounded seriously and has lost the function of one arm. Rather despondent that he is unable to accompany his brother in law back into battle, when Napoleon escapes from prison to begin his 100 day reign. Now unable to join the battle and feeling quite crippled and maimed he has serious doubts of his ability to make a show as a husband in his present condition. It is while getting away from everything that reminds him of his inadequacy that he takes a stroll that leads him to the same place that Elizabeth has gone to escape the mechanization's of her family in trying to match her with anything of flesh and blood and breeding that will tolerate her.
She has also gone to examine her watch more closely.
William finds her with the watch and confronts her about it. When he opens it to look at it he's mesmerized equally as much as she has been, but because he has some familiarity outside of the cloistered community that oppresses Elizabeth he has a better chance of recognizing that this is something that does not come from anywhere near or far from here. Because of the strange features within the watch there are a number of dials moved and an accidental pushing in of the stem. They both sense that something has happened. When Elizabeth takes possession of the watch and begins to fiddle with the stem William starts to caution her. Too late she presses the stem and they are thrust into immediate darkness.
And the adventure begins.
They first meet Max-an apparent fellow time traveler who will be able to fill in some gaps and give us the laws of time travel for these stories. Max helps them to find a place to lie low in this world where they are out past curfew and in danger of running afoul of the mechanical monstrosities that were created to put down the Frankenstein like monsters who rebelled against their creators. Those in charge of the mechanical wonders took the advantage after saving everyone and now have control of the empire.
The notion is that the creation of the monsters put emphasis on their saving the day in the battle at Waterloo and ensuring that the confidence level of the British foot soldier is lowered enough to change all of their history to a complete reliance upon the monsters to do battle for them. Thus the changes in history that lead to this society of steam and metal are all tightly bound with the first anachronistic event in history.
One major law of time travel seems to be that the time traveler is only allowed one attempt to change specific events in specific times and the traveler gets blocked out from those timelines once his presence in that timeline has occurred. (Explained here as not being able to be in the same place at the same time.) We get the sense that Max has already tried several things to zero in on the event that most strikingly determined the outcome, which is, to his unknown timeline, apparently history. Max mentions that his parents were time travelers and he sort of inherited the whole business from them. He possess a watch similar to the one Elizabeth has.
This is really a fascinating time travel story. We see mostly that the time travelers are quick to learn that even the most dramatic changes in some of the important or even less important events are not enough to stem the tide of time and history. Now with the three of them working on it perhaps they will have an impact, but will they be able to reconcile the consequences of the outcome of meddling.
This is a great book for history fans who aren't too particular about maintaining accuracy or overthinking the fact that there were so many things happening those days at Waterloo that it's difficult to say what would have occurred had any part gone differently. This novel has good solid world building for a Time Travel and Steampunk novel so there is lots here for the Sci-Fi and SFF group to love.
This is also a love story that's building slow but believable with the relationship between Elizabeth and William and there's a bit of mystery about Max's over concern at getting those two back to their time line and I think it has something to do with that locket around his neck which Max guards possessively.
A fun and fascinating romp through time and altered history.
Although I don't need to say it; I will be reading the next novel soon.
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