2011; 307 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Time-Travel, Alt-History, Steampunk, ZombieMania. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
Someone has sent Elizabeth Barton a very strange watch. Instead of a single face, it has four, one of which even has moving pictures in it (which is astounding, given that this is 1815), and none of which keep the time.
There's a beautiful fob attached to it, and it has two stems; one on the top, one on the side. And if you press the top stem all the way down twice, then the side one, the most amazing thing happens...
What's To Like...
Timepiece is an ambitious mixing of a gob of genres that nevertheless works smoothly. Most of the settings are in 19th Century England, and the historical places and lifestyle had a convincing feel. There was also a good understanding of the Battle of Waterloo. Time-Travel is the featured genre (hence the title), and if I counted right, there are 10 chrono-hops to and from 6 locations. Alt-History-wise, Heather Albano is not afraid to rewrite a timeline, and that's a delight for any reader of the genre.
Coming up with believable Time-Travel rules and mechanisms is always a challenge (what happens if I go back in time and kill my parents before I was born?), but they are well-crafted here. The only clunky part was when the novel's self-imposed "you can't be in two places at the same time" rule was broken, but maybe the author painted herself into a corner, and we'll overlook this for the sake of an exciting, coherent storyline.
The Steampunk parts (the constructs) were very good. The "Wellies" didn't float my boat, but I'm not big on that genre. Any novel that has French in it gets a thumbs-up from me, even if I did wince at "de le duc de Wellington".
Kewlest New Word...
Nuncheon : a light meal taken either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, usually consisting of bread, cheese, and beer.
The pocket watch arrived on a day when nothing else was engaging Elizabeth's attention: no parties or social calls to prepare for or recover from, nothing but gardening or letter-writing to occupy a young lady's morning. Or fancy-work, of course, but Elizabeth avoided needles and embroidery frames whenever she could.
Truth be told, she did not much care for letter-writing either. To her mother's despair, she had no liking at all for any occupation that required her to sit still. (loc. 64)
On the way back from Murchison's, she had spoken a little about her mother the opera singer, and William had heard enough to be fairly certain her plan for "after the war" had not been to settle down with Trevelyan but rather to make tracks for La Scala.
Not that it mattered what the plan was. She'd had one. It was all wrong that people with future plans should die on battlefields. Particularly when there were so many others who didn't care whether they lived or died. (loc. 3921)
I bought Timepiece for $0.99 at Amazon; which is still its price. A sequel, Timekeeper, is in the works; due out late this summer.
Sand in the gears, William thought. (loc. 4962)
The ending is best described as adequate, but that seemed inherent due to the "sand in the gears" choice of plot resolution. Some felt it had a trite, "cliffhanger" ending, but I found it to be more like a teaser for the next book, which is fine. The basic issue in Timepiece is dealing with the Wellies and the Constructs, and that is fully dealt with.
The strong female lead character and the attention to historical detail reminded me of Mary Gentle's Ash series. I very much enjoyed those books. It's nice when the strong female lead is surrounded by also-strong males, not a bunch of wussies.
Timepiece is a fine first-effort by a talented, up-and-coming writer. If you're looking for a book that actually focuses on Time-Travel and Alternate History, and is not just a façade for a romance or a mystery, this tale's for you. 8 Stars.