RogerBW's Blog

A Symphony of Echoes, Jodi Taylor 18 November 2018

2013 science fiction, second in the Chronicles of St Mary's series. Max, time-travelling historian, kills Jack the Ripper, sorts out an attack from the future, and puts history back on course by making sure Mary Queen of Scots gets married on schedule to Bothwell.

Or does she? Because for all the talk about the potential for paradoxes, we've not actually seen one yet…

But there's one huge thing wrong with this story, and that's on the emotional level. Max is supposed to have found the love of her life, but if they're going to have profound and complete breakups and then reconciliations every book, particularly when they both need to be so stupid to make the breakup work in the first place, I'm not sure I want to go on with the series. It's too much whiplash. But then I'm not a person who likes drama in relationships in fiction in general, or in real life either.

The rest, though, continues to be quite fun, a romp of bare competence and muddling through in spite of an appallingly high rate of deaths and injuries. Things go wrong and there don't seem to be good recovery plans. "Only a short observation mission" seems to me no excuse for not learning the local language or at least carrying some local money.

The strange pacing continues – as with Gallagher's Torchship series which I've recently reviewed, there's no real sense of crescendo, climax or coda. Things happen, then more things happen, then the book ends. Someone dies and it's meant to be a Great Tragic Moment, but we've barely heard of him before and it's not clear why he's dying anyway.

Even so, I found a perverse enjoyment in the book even though I almost gave it up during the emotional baggage, and I'll probably continue with the series. Followed by A Second Chance.

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Previous in series: Just One Damned Thing After Another | Series: Chronicles of St Mary's | Next in series: A Second Chance

  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 12:17pm on 18 November 2018

    This author, just to warn you, is generous with her Presaging of Future Sorrow moments even when they don't seem to make much sense.

    Her timeline doesn't seem to make much sense either: they've had a civil war in which the 'fascists' get clobbered and several of the named characters were prominent heroes but the feel of the thing is more cosy 1950s than the future. The everyday tech we see is nothing near as advanced as the tech we have now. We don't see the inner workings of time travel much as it is a creation of the future.

    Maybe social media is a tool of the fascists and had to be suppressed. I feel that way sometimes.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:05pm on 18 November 2018

    It's true; in a 19th century novel it would have been called Had I But Known, and it does get wearing at times.

    These aren't good books by any reasonable standard, but I find they can be enjoyable if I'm in the right mood. (Though I really can't recommend that you read Blackout/All Clear to get yourself into that right mood, which was what I ended up doing.)

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