Wednesday 22 November 2017

Invictus, Ryan Graudin

He wanted to meet history face-to-face. He wanted to be the blood in its veins, as it was in his
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. History is not as steady as it seems

* * * * *
5 / 5

After I read the synopsis of Invictus I was very strongly reminded of a Doctor Who plot - you know the one with Eleventh Doctor and the ginger girl's boyfriend (Rory?) who becomes a Roman soldier and waits through time. Invictus is kind of like that. The similarities being time travel, Romans, a boy, a spaceship, and that I absolutely adored both of them! Invictus is an absolute gem of a novel from the rag-tag heist-committing crew to the cover. 

He worshipped the past with a strange fervour.
It was, he liked to tell her, the weight all mankind was born to bear. The roots we did not choose, but chose us

Farway Gauis McCarthy (what a name and a half), or simply Far, was born outside of time; his mother is Empra McCarthy, a time-voyager whose job was to record the past, who gave birth to him on the time-ship Ab Aeterno in the space between time. But in the present Far is alone with his cousin Imogen since their mother went on a voyage to the past and never returned and he is unaware that his father is a gladiator from Ancient Rome. Far is poised to become a Recorder himself, about to graduate from the Academy - which gives a very Starfleet vibe but exploration of time rather than space - when he fails his final simulation exam when Marie Antoinette blows his cover by winking at him. 

"Who do you love the most?" It seemed like a dangerous query, the way it was asked: razored syllables, hungry breath beating, beating against the black. "Myself"

Proud, confident Far whose only dream is to explore the past is cut adrift, for the only way into history is through the Academy but he is barred from that track forever. We cut forward a few months to find Far the captain of an illegal time-ship the Invictus plundering treasures from history that no one would miss. His crew consists of:

  • Imogen, his cousin, the Historian of the crew - her job is to research the time periods that they travel to to help them fit in: costumes, accents, language, behaviour
  • Gram, the Engineer, who manages the technical aspects of the ship and time-travel
  • Priya, the Medic, and Far's girlfriend

The crew is diverse and intimately close and charming. I loved Far and Priya's relationship; I have a massive soft spot for established, well-written relationships. Priya is a well-written and excellent character in her own right and she and Far are great together; often books write new relationships as being fierce and passionate and electric, but established relationships are fierce in their own and different way: soft and familiar and totally at ease and Graudin really caught that feeling on paper. But back to the exciting time plundering! Whilst on the Titanic Far runs into someone very familiar yet also mysterious...

"Time flies when you're plundering history"

Eliot is a girl without a history. She's fantastically multi-faceted being sharp, deadly, but also deathly afraid of something. You never quite trust her and her game is slowly revealed throughout the book in tantalising hints. Best of all, there's not a love triangle to be seen! From her introduction, Invictus evolves from a heist novel to one involving twists, paradoxes, a weird amount of mathematics, and the entire span of time and space. Possibly my only complaint is that the characters often felt a little older than they were; in the book they are older teenagers, seventeen and eighteen, but their behaviour and maturity (upon occasion) would be a great fit for university students which would make more sense with their training as medics and Recorders. 

Overall, Invictus is an incredible book with simply delicious writing, an excellent main character and supporting cast, a tantalising mystery and some great plot twists. I absolutely recommend!

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of Invictus

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