Sunday, 13 July 2014

Marking Time

Marking Time

by April White

4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old tagger Saira Elian can handle anything... a mother who mysteriously disappears, a stranger who stalks her around London, and even the noble English Grandmother who kicked Saira and her mother out of the family. But when an old graffiti tag in a tube station transports Saira to the 19th Century and she comes face-to-face with Jack the Ripper, she realizes she needs help after all.

Saira meets Archer, a charming student who helps her blend in as much as a tall, modern American teen can in Victorian England. He reveals the existence of the Immortals: Time, Nature, Fate, War and Death, and explains to Saira that it is possible to move between 
centuries – if you are a Descendant of Time. 

Saira finds unexpected friendships at a boarding school for Immortal Descendants and a complicated love with a young man from the past. But time is running out for her mother, and Saira must embrace her new identity as she hides from Archer a devastating secret about his future that may cost him his life.

((*psst* At the time of posting, this is free to download from Amazon - go download a copy and let me know what you think?!))
Saira is an average teenage girl.  Her mother regularly leaves her to fend for herself, and her insistence that they keep moving home makes it very hard for Saira to feel connected to anyone.
Her world becomes even more unsettled when Saira realises that she and her mother can travel through time, and her mother might well be stuck in 1888.  Only Saira and her new friends can save her.

Oh my goodness me.  I cannot explain how wildly this story swung from a two star to a five star (to be very honest, at this point I have still not decided how to rate it, and I only hope I will have decided by the end of the review!).  There were so many points that rubbed me completely the wrong way; there were parts that were so dull I wanted to put the book down as a DNF.  But then it was contradicted by completely amazing parts that had me riveted.
Normally, you find one half works better than the other; but Marking Time was constantly swinging between elation and shite.

Good stuff:
Saira is a capable heroine, she is strong, smart and fast.  She is a free-running graffiti artist, and feels original.  Even when the love interest crops up, she maintains a steady view, never turning into the dozy, doe-eyed variety that's so common in YA.
The whole plot was brilliant; a different take on the story behind Jack the Ripper.  A free-running journey through both modern and 19th Century London.
There were a couple of points that I found intriguing - namely the issue around native time; learning about the background of the Elian family.

Not-so-good stuff:
Saira.  I wanted to smack her repeatedly in the first few chapters.  I struggle with garish American characters, especially when they are transposed into a different class.  A popular (and annoying) outcome is a show of a lack of respect for the world they're entering.  It's almost like the author is trying <i>too</i> hard to make their character have conviction and a "point of view".
Followed by her reaction to being in 1888 for the first time - I almost shut the book there and then.
Then there were the "lessons".  There were sections of the book, almost whole chapters sometimes, where you are treated to a lecture.  On poultices, on herb lore, on genetics...  they just weren't interesting; they were lobbed in there, almost like info-dumps, but not information that entirely pertained to the story.  It felt like it was presenting the fact that April White assumes that her readers are all of a certain intellectual level, and need to feed their IQ.
I'm an utter science geek, with a reasonably high IQ, and I found these boring.  To be honest, I ended up skim-reading whenever the book got it's "teacher tone" on.
The big surprises that weren't all that big.  The book was great, if you switched off and followed it from from start to finish.  I'm not sure whether anything in it was supposed to be a surprise - not the truth about Archer; or the truth about Saira's family and bloodlines.  Before the big reveals, it was less about subtle hints, and more about big neon arrows pointing out vital information.

And was I the only person that found it hard to believe that Archer was in love with Saira from the very first scene, when he repeatedly stated that any of his past was blurry where she was concerned.  A useful device for why Archer can't help Saira with information when she travels back in time.  But how do you know you're in love with someone that you can't remember?  How do you know that you've kissed her before, and that she won't slap you for trying now?

Ugh, ok decision time.
I think I'll give a.... 3.5.  Let's round it up to a 4 for convenience.
I will read the rest of the series, but it's not at the top of my list.

Goodreads link

1 comment:

  1. Very organized, nice layout on your blog also; easy to read.