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The title of this book feels very apt as this really is a roller coaster of a ride – not only through history, but through a whole host of different plot twists and turns. Our heroine is Madeleine Maxwell (Max), who is saved from an unhappy childhood through encouragement to get out of her bad situation through education. When she is invited to an interview at St Mary’s she finds that it is a research institution like no other. Indeed, the historians at St Mary’s can return to any historical event and witness it. This is observation and documentation only – history will not permit anything, or anyone, to change events and will not hesitate to eliminate any historians who try to do so.

The plot is very involved, but concerns Max being trained in time travel, with various different outcomes. There are madcap adventures in various times and locations, a love story, obviously some baddies and an awful lot of adventures and missions. Although this is obviously a flight of fantasy – time travel, non-stop excitement and danger – there is also enough realism to make you care about the characters. Max faces real issues, for example, with colleagues; including the kind of unpleasant sexist behaviour that makes you squirm as a reader. Still, in some ways, this is essential. Too much derring do and you might forget you are reading about characters who can get hurt, or killed, or wounded.

I enjoyed this, but it was more than a little busy and I felt the author could have slowed the pace down and invested me more in the plot and characters. Still, the idea of historians careering around the past is an intriguing one and I may well read the next in the series; once I have calmed down a little after this non-stop thrill ride…
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on 23 April 2017
I wouldn't normally read or review this sort of literature. But, I am a miserable person, so anything that actually makes me laugh out loud deserves, for me, to be reviewed.
Yes, it is a bit shallow, but it is very funny. It is all the more so if you read Taylor's short story 'The Very First Damned Thing' since this gives a great deal of background for the whole series. Since this is nominally the first book, this is what I am reviewing, although I have now read all published and enjoyed them all.
The first thing to point out is that we are not really dealing with 'alternative history'. Taylor (like her heroine, and all historians) is careful not to alter actual historical outcomes. What she does is put her own clever, and usually very funny, twists within the historical setting. The outcome is always as the history books tell us, but often the result does not quite happen in the way they say. Historians from St. Mary's are supposed to just observe, but never interfere. They do, for one reason or another, and hilarity ensues. Taylor has obviously researched her history well, and the results show. She has made me do a little historical research myself.
Secondly, I am interested in her continual interest in bodily fluids. Everyone seems to be constantly covered in some or all of these. Urine has a very special place. How many 'damned things' have gone wrong because Max needs to pee? How often has Max been peed on? Blood, either belonging to the historians or those they come in contact with, also features strongly. So do nasal secretions (or, as Taylor puts it, snot).
It is also interesting to look at Taylor's names. Mavis Enderby - Wardrobe - is actually a hamlet in Lincolnshire. More interesting is Rosie Lee. St. Mary's seems to float on tea; Rosie Lee is Cockney Rhyming slang for tea, something I am sure that Taylor is aware of.
A great series of books and short stories; I am looking forward to the next one, to come soon.
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VINE VOICEon 29 July 2015
I can't believe I have only just discovered Jodi Taylor! This is a great book with an interesting concept behind it of St Mary's and quirky British humour and time travel. The character of Max is very good; she is likeable and eccentric, with an intriguing back story which is only partly revealed. The other characters at St Mary's are well drawn, with a mixture of goodies and baddies and some in that grey area in the middle. There are some great scenes which had me laughing out loud and I know this will be a book to reread. I love the way that a cup of tea seems to solve everything even the very alarming death toll! I didn't go back and work out exactly how many people died in this book but rather more than in most books I read. There is something about this book which makes you desperate to carry on reading - I lost an evening to this book because I just had to finish it and a colleague I recommended it too complained that she couldn't concentrate at work because she wanted to get back to it! The only reason I have not given this 5 stars is the confusing time line; its not really clear how much time is passing as everything seems to be happening so fast and yet suddenly Max mentions it has been 4 years which didn't seem right. It seems like a small thing but spoiled my enjoyment of the story. However, I have already bought book 2 and am looking forward to getting back to Max and St Mary's.
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on 3 November 2017
Once in a while, I discover an author who changes everything. First it was Terry Pratchett, whose death still hurts like hell. I loved his world, the Discworld. Jodi Taylor and her protagonista Madeleine Maxwell “Max” have seduced me, made me laugh so hard that I can’t breathe and chapter 10 of this book has made my marriage quite interesting. Jodi Taylor’s England, tea, half crowns
Mr Markham, No spoilers, but if you fall in love with St Mary’s and Leon too, then you are in for a ride. Not on that damn horse, Turk, but maybe in a small shed, that looks like a shack, not a blue 1950s police box. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou.
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on 20 June 2017
Hmm. I’m not really sure what I think of this book. Do I like it? – yes. Did it make me giggle quite frequently? – yes (which gained me some odd looks on the train!). Is it a jolly good adventure? – yes. But there’s something that I can’t put my finger on that makes this an unsatisfying read; my housemate is reading it as well and said the same, independently of my feelings. It’s just got a niggle that makes me irritated.

I wonder if it’s the characters. We do go through them very fast – we barely meet them before someone’s been kicked out, and we meet the next batch, and someone’s got their head chopped off, and the next batch, and there’s this dinosaur…I feel I never really get attached to anyone (despite the rather sketchy details thrown in that are supposed to make me warm to them), because they’re only there to be killed. I’m meant to feel sympathy for Max when yet another friend or innocent is slaughtered in a tragic accident, but the constant stream feels like a revolving door, and I don’t ever have enough time with any one person (beyond Max) to warm to them. This is the first book; I want a core of people to be able to meet and get to know. I don’t want to have to forget half the cast almost as soon as they’re introduced.

Actually, that goes for the plot as well. Everything roars along, which is great and makes for a page-turner, but also left me a bit bewildered. Big changes are dealt with in a few sentences, and then a page later everything’s changed again. It’s a book that you have to pay attention to but at the same time, it’s a rip-roaring adventure, so you don’t want to pay too much attention to it. There’s quite a lot of political changes within St Mary’s, some of which have personal repercussions for Max and some of which don’t. I got a little lost at where she was at what time, including the time travel; I didn’t get why she was bouncing all over the place.

Despite that…it’s fun! It has dinosaurs and academics and baddies and double-crossing and time-travel and romance. Max is idiotic, vague, straightforward (usually saying the wrong thing), curious and amusing. The rest of the St Mary’s lot are a mixture of entertainment and intrigue, and the plot’s the usual save-the-world lark. So I did enjoy it, yes. I did laugh frequently (particularly at the bucket of ice-water). If you have read The Invisible Library or Etiquette & Espionage, then give this a try!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 November 2016
I bought this on a whim, knowing nothing about the series. It seemed to have a good 'story arc' and at the offer price of under a quid I thought it was worth a go. I don't know about the following books, but I have to say - this is fabulous. It's written in the first person by a character with a good sense of humour, lively mind, academic brains and, one surmises, beauty. At the nuts and bolts end of things there's not a grammar mistake to be found - something of a rarity in e-books these days if you ask me.

Time travel has been well done over the years, but not with quite the twists we find here. Back in the 1960s I saw a Czech (I think) film about two guys time-travelling back to Nazi Germany to kill Hitler, avoiding successive iterations of their bodies as things went wrong each trip. There's a book that has the crowd around the Crucifixion growing with all the time travellers ... you get the idea. This takes the genre and plays around with it, helped by a narrator who - save in one sad moment, very well communicated - has a light touch but takes no prisoners in her day-to-day life at St Mary's. I am trying not to give any plot spoilers, hence the vagueness. What I want to finish with is that her reaction to the 'sad event' towards the end, and her changing moods and reactions, feels right. It explains why people in life-changing situations don't always react the way you expect. Nicely observed, in my opinion, by someone who understands people and believes that dinosaurs didn't have feathers :)

If the rest of the series continues at this level of human insight, writing and plotting, it should be outstanding. No need to agonise over this one: it's 5 stars all the way.
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on 31 December 2017
Dr Madeleine Maxwell, known as Max to all, is an historian recruited by St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. St Mary’s have some time travel machines, allowing the historians to go back and observe historically significant events as they happen. This requires nerve, and training. Max has the former in spades; St Mary’s provide the latter. But there’s more at stake than Max realises.

This is a mish-mash of genres, involving history, time-travel, boot-camp training, romance, intrigue, tragedy, and more. It is a mish-mash in a good way, as Max, nobody’s fool and nobody’s patsy, powers her way through increasingly bizarre and traumatic incidents, including serving in a WWI battlefield hospital, dodging dinosaurs and more in the Cretaceous, and visiting the Library of Alexandria under somewhat trying conditions.

Everyone at St Mary’s is eccentric and weird, but also competent, which is always good to see: competence makes eccentricity funny, rather than annoying. St Mary’s does seem to have a rather small staff for what it does (although significantly more than the Gerry Anderson school of staffing levels). And I never fully understood its original business model: the time travel is a secret, so how do the historians’ observations of past events contribute to current knowledge? No matter; by the end Max has come up with a new business model which is much more effective. If the villains let them pursue it. Which of course they won’t.

I initially dipped my toe in this series, buying only the first entry. But before I was half-way through this compulsively readable book, I ordered the next three.
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on 30 July 2017
The series has been around for a while now and have already read the book but did not write a review.

Re-read the book and it's easy to say that this is my favourite series. Will be re,-reading the rest and this time remembering the reviews.

In this first of the series we meet the characters of St. Mary's. Never has a band of characters been put together in one book. The main strength of this book and the series for me results from the wonderful interactions between them. You have no options but to live through their adventures with them. You will laugh, gasp in amazement and sometimes disbelief. You will also at times shed a tear.

For anyone new to the series St. Mary's role is to travel in time to witness and chronical the events as they happen. Sounds simple but once you get to know the characters it's anything but simple.

If you are a lover of history be prepared to doubt the existing history books as the author has a wonderful ability to give history a new slant. In fact I am more likely to believe the author rather than the stuffy historians who made passing my history exams so boring.

If you are reading this please, please, please give the book a try. I think I can guarantee that having read book one the rest of the series will be a must.
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VINE VOICEon 15 May 2017
Not what I was expecting. This is a bit like Indiana Jones for Historians - temporal paradox's, a seat at the burning of the library of alexandria and a heroine who swashbuckles her way though the story. There is real wit in the dialogue (reminiscent of Douglas Adam's I thought at times ..)
It runs at break neck speed as well but it does also make you think about what we might do if we did have a real life time machine - use it for good or ill ? I enjoyed this a lot - bought the 2nd one already ..
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on 21 June 2016
I've bought all 6 books having read this one, it reminded me somewhat of the television series Primeval. It isn't ,as someone wrote ,the next "Sir Terry". This isn't a 5 star read but certainly good enough to keep the pages turning and desire to read the next book. It has a very British essence, I'm not entirely certain of the elements that convey that essence , maybe they just resonate if you happen to be British, the dry humour and underplaying of drama while dramatising the ordinary. I want St Marys to be a real place, in the same way the Tardis should actually exist and Oberon, Titania and Puck et al are living in ancient forestland( possibly in contact with Torchwood). If you enjoy weird and wonderful fiction, as I do, you should enjoy The Chronicles Of St Mary's with it's historians adventures through time. Someone complained that the characters are one dimensional , I chose to view the characters as people I'm meeting for the first time, I don't want to immediately be overwhelmed by their personal complexities as well as their activities, that would make them characters to avoid in future, I'm happy to learn about those further dimensions as the series progresses, I found them at least 2 dimensional by the end of this book. Absolutely no plot spoilers ensuring you know the the tale without reading it , you need to make up your own minds.
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