I received a free copy of Dream of Time by Nancy J. Price from Netgalley to review. It tells the story of modern day wife and mother Robin from San Francisco who, when she sleeps, inhabits the body and life of turn of the century Jennie diMedici. It relates her attempts to prevent tragedies and crimes using knowledge gleaned from her present day life.
What I liked
The basic concept. I loved the main idea and felt it was very well thought out and executed. Price wove Robin’s two lives together very well and I enjoyed her attempts to correct the past. I liked the way limitations were built into the time travel scenario so that Robin couldn’t just fix everything straight away. The fact that there were consequences in Robin’s present for the actions she took in the past also helped to up the stakes.
The relationship with Travis. “Jennie’s” relationship with Travis was beautifully written and very touching. It felt very real, and I enjoyed watching them build up trust and love. The techniques they used for communicating across the years was particularly inventive.
The Victorian setting. The Victorian setting for Robin’s alternate life was wonderfully described. It is clear Price had done a lot of research into the subject. There were some beautifully descriptive passages about the architecture and lifestyle of early twentieth century San Francisco. The particular ebook I have included links to the book’s website where more detail is provided. It was fun reading about Robin’s trying to adjust to life in turn of the century San Francisco. I actually would have welcomed reading more of this, but Robin’s culture shock was put to the side fairly quickly in favour of the time travelling crime solving plot.
The ending. I loved the way everything was brought together and the impact Robin’s time in Jennie’s life had on those around her.
What I didn’t like
The writing style. The book is written from Robin’s perspective and uses a very informal, colloquial style. While I understand that this was almost certainly a conscious choice to fit with the protagonist, I personally would have preferred a slight more formal way of writing. At times I cringed inwardly at a particularly informal turn of phrase which jolted me out of the story somewhat. That is just my own personal opinion, however, and others may have no issue with the style.
Two dimensional characters. I felt there were some wasted opportunities for some character development in the book. The two main protagonists are pleasant enough, but the villains of the piece were almost cardboard cutouts. You could almost see them twirling their moustaches and chortling evilly. There were a few half hints that they did have more depth, but they were not explored fully. A similar issue occurs with Jennie’s neighbours. Just as Jennie – and the reader – was beginning to get the impression that they are unique individuals with their own goals and desires they disappear from the scene. I would have welcomed hearing more about them.
All in all, while I loved the main plotline and setting, the narrative style and uninteresting secondary characters lessened my enjoyment of the book, so I gave Dream of Time three and a half stars out of five.