Seventeen year old Saira Elian’s mother has gone missing – again. But this time, she doesn’t come back and Saira has to go looking for her. It’s during this time that she learns about the Immortals: Time, Fate, Death, Nature, and War and about their descendants. She discovers that she is actually a Descendant of Time and that she can move between centuries, effectively making her a time traveller. In this, the first of three books, Saira takes us on a journey through Victorian England, when/where she falls in love, fights vampires, meets Jack the Ripper, and races against time to rescue her mother.
I’ve read a lot of books like this lately: teenage girl, whose mother has gone awol (or is bonkers, or is hiding something from her, and so on), who has secret powers lying dormant and ready to be discovered, who starts at a magnificent school full of magic and wonder and a whole new world. In fact, there is an awful lot of young adult fiction out now with this basic premise and it’s really difficult for authors to stand out amongst the crowd. So with this in mind, does Marking Time manage it?
The answer would have to be yes…and no! There is absolutely no denying that there are a lot of similarities between this book and the current fashion for young adult fiction – in fact, all and a bit more of what I’ve already mentioned. Saira had no friends, never been special, felt alone all her life but through the book, all that changes. Saira is extremely powerful, beyond what anyone expected. It’s all been done, and none of it exceeded or even differed from my expectations.
Of course, that doesn’t make it bad. Fashions are fashionable for a reason and I can’t deny, the young adult fantasy fashion is one that I adore. The reason that I’ve read lots of books like this is because…wait for it…I actually enjoy reading them and Marking Time was no different. I may have already had a fair idea of the basics of what would happen to Saira but I still enjoyed going along for the ride, discovering how she would get there and meeting the wonderful characters she would interact with on her way. I loved St. Brigids School for Immortal Descendants and Mr Shaw in particular. If I could find a way to attend his botany class, I undoubtedly would (and if anyone knows of a way, please let me know in the comments box below).
There are some things that mark Marking Time in time (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), there are things that make the book stand out amongst the crowd. April White takes us on a journey through history and her historical knowledge is fantastic. Although a little confusing at points (but only when the times are close together – at one point, I wasn’t sure whether we were in 1861 or 1888), Saira’s journey actually takes you to Victorian England – yes, you’re actually there (well, maybe not actually, but it certainly feels like it). In this respect, White has comprehensively combined YA fantasy with historical fiction in a way that I’ve never seen before and looking at the blurbs of the next few books, this is set to continue. I am looking forward to stepping into England in 1554 and Paris in 1429 – and that’s something I never thought I’d say!
What’s also great is the detail that White puts into the science behind the Immortal Descendants. It makes sense that in the modern world, the descendants would want to look at their history and genetics, in much the same way that us poor ‘ungifteds’ do with our own. White has created a genetic history that is believable and adds an element of consistency and realism to what is otherwise a rather crazy twist on the real world. I hope this continues through the next two books and in fact, I’d like it to go into further detail.
Like all books, there were problems. I love to read dialogue written in dialect but in this book, the dialect fails. As a Welsh person, Sanda’s Welsh accent failed to come across and the Cockney accents didn’t sit quite well either (in fact, they were written almost the same). Once I’d accepted and ignored this, it was easy to overcome though. Another thing that bugged me was age – whilst I knew Saira’s age, she came across as anything between 14 and 30, and although Archer is described as a student, I couldn’t even begin to imagine his age (although his beautiful face is quite a picture in my mind!)
I can’t help in thinking that, all in all, Marking Time is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s an enjoyable read but it didn’t blow me away. I’m not grasping for the next book with the same desperation that I have with previous trilogies but I will most definitely continue to read the series. I do admire White for her ability to merge two of my favourite genres: fantasy and historical fiction, and for her ability to make Victorian England come alive. And ultimately, we read for entertainment and I can’t deny that Marking Time entertained me for a good few hours, so what more can you ask for?