Title: The River of No Return
Author: Bee Ridgeway
Published: Penguin: Michael Joseph April 2013
Status: Read from April 20 to 21, 2013 — I own a copy
In The River of No Return, Lord Nicholas Falcott is about to be run through with a sword on a Spanish battlefield when he is hurtled two hundred years into the future. He wakes at the mercy of The Guild, a seemingly benevolent organisation that supports people who find themselves displaced in time. Nick spends a year in a reeducation center, adjusting to modern life and learning the rules of the Guild:
There is no Return.
There is no Return.
Tell No One.
Uphold the Rules.
Then, nine years after his resettlement in the USA, The Guild demands Nick’s help. He is required to travel back to 1818 and resume his position as Lord Blackdown in order to help The Guild find a Talisman which is said to amplify the ability to manipulate time, before a rival group of travellers, known as the Ofan, do.
The River of No Return is a tale of adventure, romance and intrigue as Nick finds himself a pawn in the battle for the control of time. Two groups, The Guild and The Ofan are comprised of people displaced from their own time who fail to agree on how it can be used but both fear The Pale, a phenomena which is causing time to reverse. Rumours of a Talisman, an object of some kind that could perhaps undo the damage to the timeline, has them all desperately searching, loathe for the other to gain control.
I found the concepts surrounding the time travel element in the novel surprisingly easy to grasp. Ridgeway’s characters have the ability to move both forward and backward in time and even stop time, within a limited range. The how is a little more complicated but it’s an instinctual talent so most people do not discover the ability until in the midst of a life or death crisis. The Guild tells it’s general members that traveling is a one off event in order to protect their own interests in the timeline. The Ofan are essentially a rebel group who have spurned the Guild’s control.
Though Nick makes the leap from 1813 to 1993, our time with him in both era’s are fairly brief. The bulk of the story of The River of No Return takes place in 1818 in England when Nick returns on his mission for the Guild. I think this is, in part, why I took to the novel so well as I didn’t have to contend with multiple jumps through time and the inevitable fracturing of the storyline that leads to.
There are three main points of intrigue in the story, the veracity of the Guild and the Ofan, the identity of the mysterious Mr Mibbs and the whereabouts of the Talisman. Nick is unwittingly mixed up in all three and is forced on a path to try and solve the mysteries.
Romance is a strong element of the novel, Julia, is the seventeenth century neighbour of Nick, raised by her grandfather, who discovers after his death that she she has power over time. Julia and Nick shared a moment as children and it is the memory of Julia that still haunts Nick after his leap in time. When he returns to his own time, a relationship develops between he and Julia, but it is complicated by secrets and misunderstandings.
One word of warning, The River of No Return is the first installment in a continuing story, so it ends with little in the way of plot resolution but I, for one, am looking forward to the next adventure.
I have to admit I was trepiditious when I agreed to review The River of No Return, not entirely convinced a debut author could write convincingly about time travel when it is such a challenging concept. However I was sufficiently intrigued by the premise and sample chapter to give it a try, even after I discovered the novel was nearly 600 pages long.
I am very glad I did because I found The River of No Return to be an entertaining, engaging and well written novel. As this novel crosses genre boundaries, blending elements of historical fiction, sci-fi, adventure and romance I think it will appeal to a wide audience and I am happy to recommend it as a great read.
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