Time’s Children by D.B. Jackson
Angry Robot, pb, £8.46
Review by Laura Castells Navarro
After more than a decade of waging war against the Oaqmaran autarch Pemin, Mearlan IV, King of Daerjin has come to the realisation that there is no possibility to win. So he enlists the help of Tobias Doljan, a 15-year-old Walker. His task, convince the monarch’s younger self that the war is no worth fighting. Tobias accepts the task even though the travelling rules prohibit him to travel further than a year into the past. But his plans have been leaked, Tobias is followed to the past and, soon enough, King Mearlan, his family, ministers and advisers are massacred. Only Sofya, the infant princess, survives and Tobias takes it as his duty to ensure that it remains so.
This is the first book of The Islevale Cycle jumps between the past and the new present created by the time disturbance. While in the majority of the chapters the point of view is Tobias’s, in some cases, it jumps to other characters. These jumps are done with skill and do not break the fluidity of the narrative and add value and depth to the story. Time’s Children is a well-written story that keeps the reader turning pages hoping that this time, things will come Tobias’s way – because one of the most fantastic features of this story is that some gambles work, and some not, and there is no chance to foresee which one will go which way. Another strong point is Jackson’s skill to create relatable and multi-faceted characters. Even the non-human characters feel round and complex. I personally really liked how the characters that are not on the “good” side are also portrayed as human, with dreams and hopes and make you want to understand what path lead them where they are now.
My only observations are two-fold. First, at a very early point in the story, the entire political situation and the strategic alliances between powers are described crystal clear, so any intrigue that the story could have had is thoroughly removed. It does not matter how many times the characters wonder who might be behind the efforts to hinder Tobias’s steps because as a reader, you know it all too well. Personally, I think this somehow takes away part of the satisfaction of reading a multi-layered story where the plot is slowly revealed to the reader.
The second, in a book centred on a notoriously confusing and mind-bending topic as time travelling, there is very little explanation of how it really works and which are the skills associated to being able to travel time. This makes the magic system seem simple and an easy way to cover and solve some of the complications the characters run into. As a reader who enjoys the intricacies of a detailed magic system, this felt like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Having said that, Time’s Children is still a good book, with interesting characters and an interesting premise and plot that explores responsibility and sense of duty in a world setting that is rich, complex and diverse while, at the same time is easy to see, understand and be transported to.