This is the second book in the Chronoptika series which began with The Obsidian Mirror. To recap briefly, the mirror is a time portal currently in the house of Oberon Venn, who wants to use it to bring back his dead wife Leah. His best friend David has already got lost in time trying to use the mirror, and his son Jake wants to bring him back. Maskelyne, the mirror's original owner, wants it back for purposes unknown, while Sarah, a girl from the future, knows what carnage the mirror will cause there and wants to destroy it. Outside the house, in the woods, is the timeless land of the Shee, whose queen Lady Summer wants Venn. Gideon, stolen by the Shee as a baby long ago, wants to be human again but does not know if this will kill him.
Complicated... but it gets more so. There is a lot of travel between worlds and times in this second book, as people search for each other and for a talisman that may be able to destroy the mirror. It gets quite hard to keep track of who is where and who has what at any one time, and that is quite deliberate; we are meant to feel these characters' confusion, and their mutual mistrust as their alliances keep shifting. Rebecca, once very much Maskelyne's ally, begins here to detach from him and form new loyalties. Venn, who isn't completely human, is drawn toward the faery world that can give him immortality. In this extract, he is feeling the pull of his non-human side:
"He heard the flowers open on the hawthorn bushes, the bees wake, the small furled buds of oak and ash and rowan rustle and uncurl. He felt the wind change and the breeze shiver, hedgehogs crisp through banks of leaves, tadpoles in the lake open their eyes and grow tails and swim in the deep water."
A theme that is beginning to emerge is the search for power. Several characters - Janus (the fearsome tyrant from the future), Lady Summer, the Victorian inventor Harcourt Symmes and his daughter, Maskelyne as far as we know, seem to want power more than anything. It's possible that Venn too is driven as much by power as love. Others, like David and Jake, Rebecca and the harassed schoolteacher Wharton, definitely seem to be driven more by concern for their fellow-humans. Since the notes of the mirror's inventor state that love is the only thing that can defeat time, they would seem to have the right of it.
There are still huge questions and mysteries, to resolve which we shall have to await volume 3. In the meantime there is the driving momentum and lyrical beauty of the prose. We are constantly being reminded of the passage of time and that the past and future are as real as the present: here Wharton has a sudden sense of the future of the building he is in:
"And from deep below the house he became aware of a sound he realized he had heard all night under his pillow, in his dreams - the roar of the swollen river Wintercombe, in its deep ravine beneath the very cellars.
Hurrying after Piers, he noted rain dripping into more buckets here and there, damp green mouldy patches forming on the ceilings. The whole Abbey was leaking and running with water.
In the Monk's Walk the stone was wet under his hand, the gargoyles of lost mediaeval monsters vomiting rain through their open mouths. He sensed all at once the soft timbers, the creaking gutters, the saturated soil under the foundations, had a sudden nightmarish terror of the great building collapsing, toppling, washing away, becoming the ruin that Sarah had hinted at."
Roll on the next instalment.
on 16 March 2014
Having loved The Obsidian Mirror (a keeper!) I couldn’t wait to get started on The Box of Red Brocade …
We’re straight into the action with Jake experiencing the blitz first-hand. This was an amazing scene, so real I felt like a part of it! This is our first introduction to John Harcourt Symme’s daughter, Alice. Jake is mistaken for being part of a spy network and is arrested …
Maskelyne is manipulating magic so that he will be recalled to Wintercombe Abbey.
George, Jake’s tutor, manages to find Sarah and despite trying to flee, she agrees to go back to Wintercombe Abbey and so our characters from the first book are back together.
With Alice’s diary entries revealed at relevant points, Janus from the future and time travel, there was plenty to hold my imagination. Also, we experience life in the Summerland with Sarah on a quest to find a half coin and Gideon (part Shee, part human) has a key part to play too.
Once again I have been totally swept up in this mythical and magical world. This time I have questions about Janus (is he the bad guy that everyone thinks he is?) and although there is a reveal related to the obsidian mirror, we still don’t have any more information about why. We also see a greed with Venn and I’m wondering if the pull will be too strong …
I am still highly recommending this series, you will need to start at the first book though!
In my interview (November 2013) with the author, we found out that the Chronoptika series is hopefully going to be a four book set (one for each season). Fisher was writing the midsummer book, to be finished by Samhain. I’m really eager to find out what’s next!
I would like to thank the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
on 18 February 2014
Originally reviewed on Serendipity Reviews.
I simply adore this series! This time travelling, fantastical epic adventure has me firmly on the edge of my seat and I can’t wait until the next book comes out. Catherine Fisher has created a fictional masterpiece, which keeps you absorbed from beginning to end.
From the very first paragraph you are thrown right into the action as a bomb drops on London during WW2; one of many detailed and descriptive time settings in the book. With a tightly written plot, the book curves back and forth through time as the characters try to unravel the secrets of the Obsidian Mirror.
I can’t say I love one character more than another as they all stand out uniquely from each other. Jake is strong willed and determined; he will stop at nothing until he finds his father, yet even he isn’t prepared for what he finds. Janus scares me; I am sure he has stepped straight out of the Terminator films.
This book has a little bit of everything, making it the perfect piece of fiction for anyone with eclectic tastes. It has elements of Doctor Who mixed in with Goodnight Sweetheart, hinted with subtle flavours of The DaVinci Code.
I loved it! And I really hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next part!