Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Young Adult Books / Fiction - JOHN M. MUR­RAY MEA­GAN LOGS­DON

So­nia El­lis, Tum­ble­home Learn­ing (JAN­UARY) Soft­cover $10.95 (220pp), 978-1-943431-31-1

So­nia El­lis’s Timetil­ter is an en­gag­ing, char­ac­ter­driven young adult ad­ven­ture that sets a group of dis­carded teens against a ruth­less cor­po­ra­tion with shock­ing ram­i­fi­ca­tions.

Fif­teen-year-old Singer strug­gles with a dis­abil­ity and with find­ing a place in her per­fec­tion­ist fam­ily. When her beloved dog, Dublin, is given away, Singer de­cides to steal him back from his new owner. Disas­ter strikes. She finds her­self caught up with a mys­te­ri­ous com­pany, Col­lu­sia, whose new­est en­deavor is a gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence fu­eled by per­cep­tion­al­ter­ing drugs. Trapped in a world where time is ex­pe­ri­enced at a slower rate, Singer must band to­gether with other trou­bled youths to sur­vive.

It’s clear from the start that Col­lu­sia, the Timetil­ter, and the drug are ne­far­i­ous el­e­ments in a larger scheme. How­ever, the way the mys­ter­ies un­fold keeps the ten­sion taut through­out.

The drugs prove to be a fas­ci­nat­ing as­pect of the text, giv­ing it a gamer feel. They cause ev­ery ac­tor to ex­pe­ri­ence time di­la­tion in the same way—un­less they lose line of sight. The only way back onto the same “time-di­la­tion path” is to phys­i­cally in­ter­act. Each char­ac­ter ex­pe­ri­ences the ef­fects in a dif­fer­ent man­ner re­lated to their vi­sion, and in nearly su­per­hu­man ways. The rev­e­la­tion of the drug’s true pur­pose is fas­ci­nat­ing; it holds great prom­ise for the fu­ture of the se­ries.

El­e­ments of the nar­ra­tive con­nect to the real world. Em­bed­ded within the text, usu­ally af­ter key mo­ments, are links with pass­words to ac­cess ac­tual web­sites. This in­ter­ac­tive fea­ture al­lows au­di­ences to dig deeper into the mythol­ogy of the novel and to feel more con­nected to its char­ac­ters. Key doc­u­ments and notes add an­other touch of au­then­tic­ity, par­tic­u­larly with their unique for­mat­ting and fonts.

While char­ac­ter­i­za­tion is de­cent, char­ac­ters tend to share sim­i­lar voices. This re­sults in some­what awk­ward con­ver­sa­tions and mud­dled speeches. It is some­times dif­fi­cult to con­nect the char­ac­ters to their words.

Timetil­ter breathes new life into stan­dard genre el­e­ments. The ini­tial premise lures read­ers in, but it is the in­tense cli­max that throws the door open to a whole new con­flict.

Timetil­ter breathes new life into stan­dard genre el­e­ments.

ring true and an­chor the story. Though the su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ments and the rules they fol­low aren’t al­ways con­sis­tent, they sup­ple­ment the nar­ra­tive and pro­vide a ve­hi­cle for in­trigu­ing his­tor­i­cal, po­lit­i­cal, and re­li­gious com­men­tary.

Luca’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and per­sonal in­ner jour­ney are cap­tured well, and Suzan is also ably por­trayed. Their love-at-first-sight ro­mance strains credulity some­what, but its pres­ence in the story never over­shad­ows the larger plot. Myr­iad vil­lains re­main hazy, even as threats, and the ten­sion that arises be­cause of them is of­ten eas­ily re­solved. The cli­mac­tic mo­ments fiz­zle out as a re­sult.

The­mat­i­cally, the ethics and bru­tal­ity of the Cru­sades are ex­plored, and though de­mons per­me­ate ev­ery cor­ner of the nar­ra­tive, they are by no means scape­goats for the hu­man char­ac­ters’ hor­rific ac­tions. Told from the per­spec­tive of the Chris­tians, the fo­cus is nat­u­rally on their per­sonal and cor­po­rate sins, but the Sara­cens are not painted as en­tirely in­no­cent, re­sult­ing in re­fresh­ing gray ar­eas in a plot that might have in­stead been starkly black-and-white.

The Book of Whis­pers em­braces its fan­tas­ti­cal aspects with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the con­crete, and of­fers an in­tro­spec­tive glance into hu­man na­ture.

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