I don’t really keep quiet about the fact that instituionalised time travel is my absolute favourite fictional topic ever, specific though that may be. A Crown in Time fits that very particular requirement nicely – time travel by an organisation for educational/research/correcting time loop purposes. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is the best example of this I have ever read, although Just One Damned Thing After Another is pretty good too. Anyway, imagine my delight when I stumbled across A Crown in Time in the library (you know, in the good old days when we were actually allowed outside), having had no idea it existed.
Plot summary for A Crown in Time:
Since it was perfected in 2900, time travel has been reserved for an elite, highly trained few. However, on certain occasions, a Corrector is needed to rectify a mistake in the past. Do your job well, and you’ll go down in history. Fail, and you will be erased from Time . . .
In the far future, a convicted criminal is given a chance at redemption. The Corrector Program at Tempus University is sending Isobel back in time, to the year 1270, to rewrite history. Her mission? To save the crown of France.
If she follows the Corrector’s Handbook everything should run smoothly. But soon, Isobel finds herself accompanying a hot-headed young noble on his way to fight the infidel in Tunis: a battle Isobel knows is fated to be lost. Isobel must fulfil her duty, knowing she can never return to her time, knowing one wrong move can doom the future, or doom her to be burned as a witch . .
Star rating for A Crown in Time: * * * * (four stars)
So Isobel accidentally hits a child with her car and is sentenced to life in prison (which seems bizarre to me, but hey ho), unless she agrees to head back to 1270 and correct the course of time, led astray by a careless modern journalist. Excellent. I am completely on board with this plot. 100% up my street. A Crown in Time has my complete attention.
85478The time travel aspects are actually pretty great. Isobel has to figure out in what time she has landed and where, and how to complete her mission (by forcing the ancestor of the Bourbon monarchy to abandon following the Eighth Crusade) without derailing time more than it already is. I love it. She’s lost and confused, exactly as somebody almost two thousand years out of their time should be. She struggles with her companions’ body odour and lack of soap, and has to find ingenious ways to brush her teeth. All the detail I adore in these things.
A Crown in Time provides the perfect amount of detail about the Eighth Crusade; a topic which I knew literally nothing about. I love history, but my education was almost solely around British history (with a quick dip into the French Revolution). The book gives enough detail to follow the plot and learn a little something, but without getting bogged down in political detail which would have slowed down the story. It’s a great balance.
What isn’t a great balance is the shift between the over-arching story, i.e. fixing the timeline, and then the end game. The first two thirds of the book or so are great. But then A Crown in Time settles down into sort a historical fiction-romance – only more of the latter than the former. It was still fine, but what made it interesting was the historical aspects and that just sort of went. There was a definite focus on the romance. It reminded me of the later Outlander books, but without the detail.
It’s not that I disliked the latter part of the book – it’s just that historical romance wasn’t why I’d picked it up. It wouldn’t be so bad, but the romance is just… odd. Every aspect of romance in this book is odd – I can’t say much without spoilers, but trust me when I say it’s all a bit squicky and comes from nowhere. And there’s a lot of sex. It’s not graphic at all, but it’s also not necessary. Isobel has sex with three people consensually, is raped once, groped twice and references a previous historical rape. I know that such things definitely happened in the time period, but three unnecessary consensual partners in a 350 page book is a bit much.
In short, A Crown in Time exceeded my expectations and I loved the detail involved in Isobel’s journey back through time. I do think the second half lost its way somewhat – it was still enjoyable, just slightly jarring. I’d recommend this book to everyone who loves time travel, historical romance or the very specific combination of factors that I do. I’ll definitely be reading the next book in the series, as well as starting Jennifer Macaire’s next series, The Road to Alexander.