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by Felix J Palma

4*

To paraphrase Edmund Blackadder, this is a giant roller-coaster of a novel in 512 sizzling pages. A searing steam-punk time-travel comedy with some hot Victorians thrown in – most notably, it has HG Wells in a starring role, and who could resist that?

I loved Herbert George’s chapters, they were the best part of the story. Then there’s Bram Stoker, Henry James, John Merrick, Jack the Ripper – all make an appearance as the story weaves together disparate plot lines featuring different types of time travel – is it real, is it not? The Map of Time kept me guessing and kept me turning pages as the story tipped from past to future to present and back to the past.

The one thing I really didn’t like was the author’s voice, which kept breaking in (a nod to Victorian novelists?) to labour points and over-egg the pudding; a stylistic device that got awfully wearing after a while.

Considering the book is originally by a Spanish writer (I was reading the English translation), the transposition to Victorian London is very well done, there are just a few – and very minor – errors to make a native Brit smile. The three-book format worked pretty well, though I found I was just starting to get to know the characters when the story suddenly rolled on ahead, leaving some of the best of them behind, and seemingly forgotten, in a cloud of narrative steam.

And then, the biggest disappointment of the book, after such a commotion of colliding events, interlocking tales and crashing story-lines, the exposition-packed, epistolary ending fizzled out like a damp firecracker; a very disappointing ending to such a roller-coaster ride.

All of which sounds like a lot of moaning and complaint about what is actually, a massively enjoyable tale. The Map of Time is not for everyone, but if you love a good-natured, rollicking good tale that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then this is definitely a book for you.

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