The Map of Time
By Felix J. Palma
I love multiple-story novels and I love the Victorian era, so the publisher’s write-up promising both grabbed me from the get-go. Not to mention the premise of “What if we changed history?” Time travel in the Victorian Era? Sign me up. On top of all that, the first sentence was one of the best I’ve read in a long time: “Andrew Harrington would have gladly died several times over if that meant not having to choose just one pistol from among his father’s vast collection in the living room cabinet.” Okay, awesome, I was all in.
Then something happened that threw this novel off track for me. Part of it was when it slipped into an omniscient point of view and I wasn’t expecting it. However, it was easy to follow and I’m not adverse to omniscient pov so I kept going. I wasn’t too crazy about the obvious narrator intrusion but figured it would be used to good effect later on. Then the author moved off the first main character (the aforementioned Andrew Harrington) to spend several pages on the upbringing of H.G. Wells and my interest began to flag. But, the story was still good so I continued on – straight into disappointment to find out the time travel was a hoax. However, I was invested by that point so I plowed on…and nearly cried when the second story began, the narrator intruded again, and I lost Andrew and his cousin Charles to begin a new story with an unknown character.
Now, I have to credit where it’s due and Felix Palma is an amazing writer. What I couldn’t wrap my head around was the structure. Several posts ago, I agonized over feedback I’d gotten from RevPit – “too many points of view”, “we have to get to know your characters”, yadda yadda yadda. I’ve also written several sectionalized novels that switch from character to character, dropped back into their history, and brought the reader up to speed over several pages or a chapter instead of weaving in the backstory. If I received criticism about the structure, I usually moaned, “But it’s the way the story needs to unfold!” About two thirds of the way through this novel, the light bulb went on and I understood what both the RevPit editor and some of my critique partners were trying to tell me. If you hop all over the place and restart the story with a different character, the reader isn’t able to really care about any of them. And that’s what happened to me here. Wonderful story, but I didn’t like the structure and I never really connected with the characters.
Aside from the above criticism, I wish the author had either chosen a simple third person point of view OR kept it omniscient throughout the entire novel, but I felt it flip-flopped back and forth. The narrator could have been completely cut out since I never did figure out who it was supposed to be.
I consider myself a fan of nontraditional structure, but this one fell flat for me. The story IS amazing and creative (as proven by the fact that I finished the book), and the period details are spot on. But the structure was frustrating and I’m on the fence if I’m going to read the second book in the series.
I gave The Map of Time two stars.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.
My rating system:
5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.
4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.
3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.
2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.