A year after the events of the last book, Sophia and Theo are back in Boston. Sophia is searching for clues to where he parents are, sending her on a journey to the Papal States (equivalent to 15th century Europe) while Theo discovers his past has come back to haunt him and threaten the life he has made in Boston.
Again, with this being the second book in the series, the world being rocked by different lands from different times is still very well thought out and interesting. In the Papal States that Sophia travels to, when the people that live there find that can’t explain something, they automatically think that magic and witches are involved. Nods to reality like this in speculative fiction are nice to see because it shows some effort and thought that the author put into building the universe.
That said, it’s a great idea that could have been fleshed out more and made the story more interesting. Imagine seeing prehistoric animals like mammoths interacting with people from the future or even futuristic animals. Imagine people from ancient Mesopotamia colliding with modern technology. What if one of the Ages were Atlantis! How amazing would that be to finally know where Atlantis was and have be an Age that contemporaries could interact with!
Rather than playing on ancient mysteries or mixing of cultures that never actually interacted in history, Grove makes the choice to have her world be largely unique. The majority of the Ages that are interacted with by the characters are typically extremely futuristic, although this does not always take the shape that a reader would suspect (there is a suspicious absence of hovercraft, cool tech, and aliens). These worlds are fun to explore at times but the stories of the characters only take the reader to a limited number of places are that almost entirely fictional. It would be nice to see more historical reference points (honestly Boston and the Papal States are the only ones that the reader explores that have any roots in history) as that was sort of the big selling point on this book and the first book.
While the setting is fun, that’s where it stops. The story of having to travel to the fifteenth century to find her parents is cool but Sophia is a very uninteresting character. From her adventures in the first book, she doesn’t seem to have evolved as a character. When it comes to people she should trust, like Theo, she has difficulty trusting him. When she meets people she should wait to trust, like total freaking strangers, she almost instantly trust them. Theo is an okay character but besides his past, he is just a regular guy with nothing to special about him. His story deals with politics going on in Boston and trying to stop a bad guy from his past. It almost seems like there is a mystery that is going on but you know who the bad guy from the beginning. Side characters show up that, again, look really cool and will be fun, and then are just generic.
For people that loved the first book, you will still like this book. If you weren’t a fan of the first book, just know the problems from the first book are still present in this one.
I personally can not stand Sophia. I know she is a young teenage girl, but she seems to whine about everything! Just trust Theo already! He has more than earned it! With this setting there could have been a huge action adventure going through the different ages. Instead we get political strife and an adventure that got so close to interesting but went back to boring and blah. Great setup, great setting but delivery, and annoying main character made it slow and boring. I will not be reading the next book unless I’m forced to. By forced to I mean tortured and beaten.
I don’t find Sophia as annoying as Greg does but I do have to agree that she is not the most captivating protagonist. I knew going into these books that she is 13 years old and I would probably not be able to relate very much to a 13 year old so I try to keep that in mind while reading. The thing that kills me on this series so far is the lack of exploration. The main characters are explorers! Yet 2 books in, while we have gone places and seen some, I feel largely like I am missing a lot of this world. This series so far has just not lived up to my expectations going in.