I like Timebound, the first in the Chronos Chronicles Series. I really do. I like its premise, relationships, characters and narrative. It’s a good book and a good story (as I indicate in my review). In Time’s Edge, Rysa Walker takes all of that ground work and creates a book an order of magnitude better.
The trick is that there’s no one thing that’s starkly different; there’s no smoking gun or clear area where you point to it and say “Whoa — that’s tremendously better!” Rather she takes every single element and polishes corners, creates layers, and embeds textures that, taken as a whole, produce a stunning sequel. So this will be a little different review. The first section will be a little about the Time’s Edge story and how it fits into the series. The second section will dive a little more deeply into why it seems this “breathes” as a better novel. I’ll also briefly review the audiobook (performed by one of my all-time favorite narrators, Kate Rudd). Finally, I’ll go in a bit deeper, using spoiler material (I’ll warn you). to make my point. This may well be the gold standard for a sequel.
Our protagonist Kate has narrowly missed being blinked into non-existence through some time travelers tinkering with history. She was nearly in a timeline that wasn’t. She, with help from her Grandmother Katherine, friend Connor and boyfriend Trey, her frienemy and aunt, Prudence, stopped the timeshift from happening. Now it gets real. Their mission is to stop the Cyrist from taking over the world and killing all of the non-Cyrist. The only weapon they have is time. They must stop the Cyrists from messing with the timeline. No problem. Kate must do this even while their world is stirred up by complex love, family relationships, a fruitless wild goose chase and having potential colleagues get into hot water in the timeline in which they’re stuck.
Let’s take a look at the relationships and how they have additional layered complexity: Trey & Kate: we have the addition of Kate pursuing Trey (a reversal of their first meeting) to reconnect after a timeline shift where he doesn’t know her. Kiernan & Kate: Kiernan, in another timeline that is no more, loved Kate and she him. He remembers “his” Kate and relates to the new Kate on that foundation. Kate is attracted to Kiernan as well but is committed to Trey. Katherine & Kate: Katherine’s cancer complicates and makes their relationship difficult both in it’s affects on Katherine’s moods and her anxiousness on seeing this done before the cancer does her in. Charlayne & Kate: Kate’s BFF is now seemingly Cyrist but doesn’t seem to completely fit the Cyrist mold. This, of course, is on top of the interesting dynamics already established in these relationships. Layering these relationships is absolutely tied to the narrative. There’s actually more to the complexities but, you know, spoilers.
Another amazing aspect of Ms. Walker’s writing is that, while she has many complicated threads, they all flow from and return to the main narrative in a useful, clear, and comprehensible way. They are not just rabbit trails but, ultimately, integral to the story. There is no artificiality in plot twists or in sub-plots. On top of the main missions, we have the relationships to those from whom she collects the CHRONOS keys (like her great-grandparents on her father’s side), the challenge is always before them of what they might impact in taking action or even lack of action, becoming embroiled in a local fight and the implications thereof and the possibility that, even if they succeed in their mission they won’t meet their goal. Kate is doing this in an ever shifting world where Cyrist’s continue to gain influence and power. Finally, it turns out that Saul’s main “weapon”, Prudence is also his greatest liability.
Finally, there’s the emotional landscape of a recovering love, a reluctant unrequited love and the need to not intervene to right wrongs that affect the timeline. She must cope with letting atrocities occur, despite the likely ability to stop it, in order to stop much worst genocide. This is, however, running perilously close to not doing apparent good for “the greater good,” they seem caught in Cyrist’s own tag line. Oh, and not only is she flipping through time left and right but doing so multiple times to fit a month’s worth of activity in a week.
Layers, textures and relationships all working together to drive the narrative. Now that’s writing. Ms. Walker continues to do her research on the eras her characters populate and bases much of what occurs on historical events. Oh wait, and there’s the whole examination of time travel, implications of change and effects on those affecting the change. Yowsa.
As I’m wont to do, I went back and forth between the Kindle and Audible versions. Kate Rudd perfomance is simply amazing! Performing as Kate’s not much of stretch but her Kiernan is surprisingly fabulous. I love her Trey as well. As always, her pacing is terrfic, consistency in characters is professional and her inflections spot on. She’s always a delight to hear read. If you like audiobooks, you’ll love this one.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to how Ms. Walker handles the ending. She wraps up her current story and sets up the next book with a bit of a teaser. No cliff-hanger. No mere stop without a proper ending. This may sound like writing 101, but it’s seems to becoming a fairly rare event in books in a series, so I salute you Ms. Walker for your ending.
I highly recommend Time’s Edge for your reading pleasure.
++++SPOILER ALERT++++ Don’t read below until you’ve read the book
I love the rational twists of Time’s Edge. Of course there’s no clear victory even if they win the day of collecting all of the CHRONOS keys (OK, I see that now). So to look at multiple potential targets of wiping out the cache, making an antidote to Saul’s manufacted plague or work together with the rest of the Fifth column to reduce Cyrist power all make sense. This is probably the most realistic SciFi/Time Travel/Historical Fiction I’ve read. Charlayne as part of the Fifth column is brilliant! I truly hope she’s not a double-agent. Leaving the door slightly open for Kate & Kiernan keeps that whole tension just a bit higher as well.
Seriously well-orchestrated tweaks, layers, twists and textures to take a really good first book into a fabulous sequel. I can’t imagine what the next book in the series will be like.