Time Travel with a Twist – A Book Review

Jodi Taylor bookJust One Damned Thing After Another by Jodie Taylor gives you time travel with a twist. It’s got all the best elements of Doctor Who and Harry Potter rolled into one and, better yet (for historians like myself), it’s full of genuine, historical research, alongside plenty of humour. Madeleine Maxwell (Max) finds herself a job at St Mary’s, a crumbling old house full of intriguing characters, explosions and surprises. She becomes a trainee historian, learning the ropes, until one day she gets to actually travel back in time. And then the excitement really begins…   

The plot races along at such a speed that you hardly have time to take it in. There is not only time travel, love interest and bucket loads of hilarity, but every time you think you’re on top of things, another layer of mystery turns up, waiting to be solved. It turns out that, not only does ‘History’ have it in for pesky historians who might meddle in the past, but there is also a nasty villain from the future (Clive Ronan) intent on sabotaging their work and making himself a tidy profit.

But this is not just a funny book about time travel. It is far more powerful than that. The characters are well developed, and engaging. Max is immediately likeable, with a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour and a traumatic past (she thinks that families are “the invention of the devil”).

The task of “investigating historical events in contemporary time” is dangerous, even life-threatening (the death toll is pretty high) and St Mary’s is at risk of having their funding withdrawn (that feels familiar), and must do all they can to prevent Clive Ronan and his team from exploiting history, before it’s too late. Not only that, but Max’s relationship with Leon Farrell, Chief Technical Officer, adds another complication to the mix. He is both charming and aloof, hiding secrets of his own.

Max and her fellow historians spend a considerable amount of time in the Cretaceous Period, where the odd raptor or T-Rex must be negotiated. This part reminded me of the Hunger Games, as the historians attempt to survive in an alien landscape where everything, it seems, is out to get them. Personally, the Cretaceous is not my favourite historical period, but the story does dip into eleventh century London, World War One and other eras.

I was disappointed that the plot failed to reveal more of Max’s past, but am hopeful that this will come out in later books (it is the first in a series of seven). I wasn’t too keen on the title either (a bit long-winded) but I can see why it was chosen (it’s from an Arnold Toynbee quote about history). I did enjoy the ‘historian jokes’, such as the need for people to ensure they don’t “lose all track of time and become welded to the furniture” (I can identify with that one). There were some real laugh-out-loud moments too.

This book was initially self-published, but was soon spotted by Hazel Cushion of Accent Press, who quickly offered Jodi Taylor a publishing deal. It gives us mystery, betrayal, heartache and history all wrapped up in a plot that jumps from scene to scene, like a roller-coaster ride. I particularly liked the Hogwarts type description of St Mary’s, the funny travel “pods” that smell of “stale people, cabbage… and damp carpet” and the mix of humour and sobriety, and I look forward to reading the next book soon….

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Read about Jodi Taylor’s journey to publication here.

Declaration: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.