Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma

In The Map of Time, Andrew Harrington is desperate to save Marie Kelly, his lover who has been killed by Jack the Ripper. Claire Haggerty wants to escape her Victorian restraints and falls for a man who lives in the future. Others want to see what life is like in the year 2000. Set in Victorian London, this historical fantasy novel uses real and fictional characters to investigate time travel and the ability to change the history. It also questions what would happen if we do so. Leading the way is H.G. Wells, who because of his novel The Time Machine, is seen as the authority on the subject.

I loved this book. Really loved it! It's one of the best ones I read this year. The story was intelligent, creative and witty. The author has a wonderful, healthy sense of humour. I never would have thought history and fantasy would make such a good pair. After reading the last page, I immediately wanted to start over again at the beginning. At over 600 pages, it could have been intimidating for me. However, it wasn't at all. I felt so immersed in the story that I didn't want it to end. While I love historical novels, I'm not that fond of fantasy novels. They just don't appeal to me. However, the fantasy aspect of this novel is handled in such a way that I found it a joy to read.

The three sections with interrelated plots lead the reader through the whole story. I simply adored the first two sections. The stories were approachable and relatable while the characters seemed real. However, it took me a little while to warm up to the third section. At first, it had a different feeling than the others and that interrupted my rhythm a little. However, that soon passed and I enjoyed reading the final section as well.

Rather than follow a linear path, the story jumps around quite a bit. I love books written this way. They really make me think. I don't mind "working" a little to follow the story and if the author has constructed a well built story, as Palma has, it makes the extra effort very worthwhile. Having said that, most of the story was easy to follow, but there were a few sections that were a little tricky. I really had to pay attention so I wouldn't lose the gist of the story.

One of my favourite parts of the book is when the narrator/author talked directly to me, the reader. He doesn't do it that often, but when he did I was overcome with joy. Reading is such a solitary pursuit that it was nice to be acknowledged.

I love it when authors used real-life characters in fictional works. Even if it's not someone I'm familiar with or someone I even like or admire, I still get a kick out of it. In this book, Palma uses H.G. Wells as a major character, while Joseph Merrick plays a more minor role. There are also brief appearances by both Bram Stoker and Henry James. I'm not that familiar with any them, but I feel that I got to know them a little better through this work despite the fact that the story is fictional. Palma has definitely peaked my curiosity about Wells and Merrick and I'm going to be looking into their lives further. Not only has Palma uses real characters, but he also incorporates some real life events like the crimes of Jack the Ripper. Again, I found this fascinating.

Favourite quotes:
No, the orchestra of life would carry on playing without him, because in reality his part had never been important to the score. (page 433)

New words:
panegyric (page 380): extravagant praise
pilloried (page 483): denounced
fin-de-siècle (page 481): the last years of the 19th century
perspicacity (page 526): perceptiveness
callow (page 584): inexperienced

Highly recommended. Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I love this book and what I love about it. I'm so looking forward to reading more works by Palma. Look for this book in my "Best of 2011" list at the end of the year.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma, Atria Books (Simon & Schuster) ©2011. ISBN 9781439167397(ARC), 609p.


  1. I love time-travel stories. This one sounds complicated, but I'll trust your judgement and look for it at the library or book store.

    Loved the quote!

  2. Thanks for the review. I like fictional books that use real life characters too.

  3. I just finished this book and I loved it too... one of my favorites this year. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. I thought with the time-travel it would be scifi but instead it was fantasy.


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