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enchantment

Classification: Fantasy

 

In 1975, when Ivan Smetki was 10 years old, his family was forced to stay for a while in his uncle’s farm, which is located next to Kiev. One day, Ivan went on a small excursion in the woods and stumbled into a small clearing. When the wind pushed moving leaves, Ivan saw the pale shape of a sleeping woman. But there was something else – something malevolent. Panicking, Ivan ran away in fear. Not a long time afterward, the Smetski family moves to the US.

 

Many years pass, and Ivan is now a Ph.D. student working on a thesis dealing with Russian fairy tales. Although in the years since he stayed with his uncle Ivan always believed what he saw was a hallucination or a dream, he couldn’t forget it. Thus, when his research takes him back to Russia, he decides to look for the clearing he saw when he was a kid. To his great surprise, he finds it. And indeed there is a woman sleeping underneath the leaves. There is also something malicious guarding her – a huge bear.

 

Before he realizes what is going on, he is informed that the bear will kill him unless he agrees to marry the woman. This will break an enchantment that is placed on her (which is what kept her sleeping for so many years). Naturally, he proposes on the spot, and suddenly he – and the beautiful princess Katerina, apparently the source of the Sleeping Beauty tale – are living in 10th century Russia. Shattering romantic expectations of a trip through time, Ivan finds himself in a place where all his skills are worthless (what would a modern Russian scholar do in the 10th century?), and needs to prove himself to the locals.

 

The plot thickens when Ivan and Katerina find themselves back in the 20th century, fleeing the wrath of the Baba Yaga – the mythical Russian witch that actually placed the curse on Katerina – and Bear, the spellbound personification of Russian winter.

 

Enchantment combines elements of Folklore, Modern Fantasy and Time Travel. This is a really hard thing to do: very few novels manage to do this successfully, but this is one of those cases. There were also a lot of unexpected twists: time and again the novel managed to surprise me with original plot elements. A fantasy novel becomes great if it manages to convince you that there is a great universe in existence beyond the novel, with its own rules and limitations. This is the strength of Lord of the Rings. Here, too, the author manages to do a superb job in creating a highly believable universe. What I thought was weak in the novel is the characterization. The character of Ivan was not very realistic, and seemed to exist only to advance the plot. Sleeping Beauty, Princess Katerina, was also a one dimensional character (I also could not stand her!). However, the Baba Yaga is a fascinating villain, I greatly enjoyed the scenes told from her perspective. Bear was even better, and was my favorite character in the book.

 

To summarize: highly recommended. One of the most original stories I’ve ever read, extremely enjoyable. Although it is more a fantasy than a time travel story, it will appeal to lovers of both.

 


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anubisgates

Classification: Past Time Travel

 

In 1983 a wealthy man, J. Cochran Darrow, discovers a way to travel to the past. He hires Brendan Doyle, an English professor who’s an expert on Coleridge, to take a group of ten tourists – each having paid a million dollars – to 1810, specifically, to attend a lecture given by Coleridge himself. To Doyle, a scholar researching the biography of the mysterious poet William Ashbless, this is a dream come true – a once in a lifetime opportunity – and he, of course, accepts the offer. However, the plan goes awry: just before attempting to return to the present, Doyle is kidnapped and is unable to return.

 

To his amazement, Doyle discovers that in order to get back, he must overcome a band of gypsies, magic-wielding Egyptian sorcerers, and the perils of 19th century England. Not to mention an ancient, body-switching, werewolf. During these trials, Doyle gets to live in Victorian England – a dream come true that turns into a nightmare – and attempts to find the enigmatic Ashbless (the rationale being: as long as he is there, why not make the best of it?)

 

The book is very well written, the characters – historical and fictional – are fully fleshed, and the level of detail in describing the period and historical characters is astonishing. Powers has clearly done his research, and it shows.

 

To me, one of the favorite aspects of complex Time Travel novels is the mental attempt to guess how the various time periods connect. Many books attempt to do this and simply fail. Even worse, other books become cryptic and ‘mystical’, thus, avoiding the need for a convincing conclusion. The Anubis Gates pulls off this feat admirably: all elements tie out perfectly, and the best aspect, some parts clearly came – to me – as a surprise.

 

To summarize: there are a lot of ingredients in this book: Time Travel, Historical Figures, Complex Interweaving of Past and Present that need to be wrapped up in a convincing manner. The Anubis Gates is one of the few books able to pull this off together. It’s simply a masterpiece: one of the best time travel books I’ve read.

 


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thedoorthroughwashingtonsquare

 

Classification: Plot Device

 

One day Dierdre MacCallum receives a call from her wealthy great-grandmother, Bridget, who’s on her deathbed and has chosen Dierdre, out of everyone in her family, to settle her standing affairs. Although Dierdre is somewhat perplexed by the choice, she agrees and comes to her grandmother’s building in Washington Square park (located in New York’s Greenwich Village) to do her bidding.

 

Dierdre quickly finds out that there is something odd about her grandmother’s apartment. Specifically, the fact that the view from the doors in one of the rooms is different from the view everywhere else. To her amazement, she discovers that these doors lead 72 years to the past. Same place, same apartment – different year. And of course, once she’s there, the doors lead back to the present.

 

Curious about the history of the place, Dierdre manages to find her grandmother’s journals. She then discovers that the notorious Aleister Crowley was a tenant in the building in the early 20th century. In fact, Bridget, her grandmother, was one of his most devoted followers.

 

In case you are not familiar with the name, Aleister Crowley, a real historical figure, was the founder of the major 20th century occult organization, The Golden Dawn. He used to practice magick (”real” magic), including sexual magick, supposedly invoking the power generated by sex to gain certain abilities. He was definitely a colorful and interesting character – you may want to check out his Wikipedia entry (at least, if you choose to read this book). Interestingly, he really did live in the Village for a short amount of time.

 

Using the door which is always at her disposal, Dierdre begins exploring the past. She meets Aleister, and befriends the young version of her grandmother. She also meets – and falls in love – with the poet Noah Hathaway. The problem is that her actions begin to destabilize the present and eventually result in Noah’s death. What does Dierdre do? Read the book to find out.

 

This book is unlike any other novel I have ever read. It’s an intriguing, modern, urban fantasy love story involving time travel. What I liked about it is that it was extremely well written: the characters, particularly Aleister Crowley, were very convincing and felt like real people. The usage of the historical setting was also handled in a way that greatly helped emphasize the plot; the door to the past was really Dierdre’s way of “escaping” to a secluded place from her world – when it was raining in modern day New York, at times it was sunny and pleasant in the 1918 version. And the best part: the story was very good: it had several unexpected twists, and utilized time travel in a very unusual way.

 

As a side note I must mention that during the 90s my father used to live in Washington square. After reading the book, whenever I used to visit him, I kept wondering: where did Aleister Crowley live? Where did all the wondrous events described in the book take place? Although, obviously, it is a fictional story – this fact made the book even more real to me, and probably even more enjoyable.

 

Overall, this is a modern fantasy novel with a lot of romance thrown in. However, its usage of time travel is really what makes the story unique – and special. I simply could not put it down! I recommend it to anyone who likes time travel books and isn’t put off by reading about magical rituals. Being a romantic at heart is probably a requirement as well ;-)

 


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outoftime

 

Classification: Fantasy

 

Emma Merrigan is a divorced middle-aged university librarian living a rather dull life. Her life is so unexciting, it is almost impossible for her to envision something else. Perhaps that is why when Emma bumps into Jennifer, an abused teenager, she invites her to her house – and to her life.

 

What Emma doesn’t know is that from some reason, this change causes night terrors – strange nightmares which she hasn’t had since childhood – to return at full force. The reappearance of these brings back old memories, which eventually lead her to open an old box her mother – who mysteriously vanished when Emma was a child – had left her decades before.

 

Thus begins Emma’s descent into a world of witchcraft and occult, a world where curses – malevolent parasitic entities – can plague people for centuries, and can only be stopped by traveling in time to the curse’s origin and eliminating it there. And so, Emma finds herself a time traveling hero, bitter enemy of curses.

 

Out of Time is a very imaginative fantasy novel. The characters and settings are diverse and interesting, and its premise is so unusual that it becomes a page turner – at any given moment, the reader doesn’t really know where the plot is going (always a good thing).

 

Additionally, although this is a time travel story, it is a fantasy novel as well. As such, the perspective is rather different from the ’standard’ time travel tale. In this case, time travel is mainly used as a tool that enables visiting various interesting historical settings.

 

In summary: a very fun fantasy novel, easy read if you’re looking for something light. I particularly liked the fact it is a modern fantasy tale, meaning, it depicts a complete fantasy universe superimposed on our model world (i.e. think Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere). Definitely recommended for fantasy lovers.

 


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