It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson – published for kindle in July 2017 by Endeavour Media (available via Kindle Unlimited too), and also available in paperback. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the author for my reading copy.
As so often happens with Rachel’s tours, I really didn’t need a lot of encouragement to read and review this one. I’ve enjoyed meeting Julia at a few get-togethers with the Belmont Belles, and at a number of other RNA events: it was a delight to welcome her to Being Anne for an interview back in September 2018 (you can read that post again here), and she wrote a lovely guest post on writing time-slip when A Shape on the Air was first published (you’ll find that one here). And everything told me that this would be a book I’d enjoy – it’s just taken me rather longer than usual to get round to the reading…
Unlocking a love that lasts for lifetimes – and beyond!
When Dr Viv DuLac, a medievalist, slips into 499 AD and into the body of Lady Vivianne, little does she realise that both their lives across the centuries will become intertwined as they fight for their dreams … and their lives.
How can the key which Viv bring back with her to the present unlock the love they both crave, and help them through the dangers they both face? And how can they help each other across the centuries, without changing the course of history?
I will admit – and I mention it only in case you find the same – that I did find it a tad difficult to engage with Viv DuLac at the book’s start. I just didn’t like her very much: and I did struggle with the fact that an apparently intelligent and together woman could have been so stupid not to see through her obnoxious partner Pete, while he betrayed her trust through an affair with a former friend, allowing him to put her home and future at risk.
But as she drowned her sorrows in rather too much red wine, my feelings changed – she slowly began to feel more like my kind of girl (I think the writing maybe became more fluid and comfortable at that point too). However, a night-time walk to Cooney’s Mere might not have been the best idea she’d ever had. But a gentle push at the water’s edge, and the book then became something very different – and just what I’d hoped it would be, as we return to 499AD and meet Lady Vivianne.
I must say that I thought the way this book was constructed was incredibly clever – the contemporary and historical stories mirror each other, the characters all having counterparts in both timelines, and “lives…intertwined” (in the book’s blurb) is the quite perfect way to describe it.
Sometimes one of the most awkward things about time-slips can be the way the transitions are handled – but these are just perfect, and I particularly liked the attempts at rational explanation (goodness, Einstein-Bridge portals – who knew?), the way the triggers were made so believable, even the way the portal was used to allow present and past to interact.
Despite my faltering at the start, much of the strength of the story is in its characters. Lord Pelleas is even more of a boor than obnoxious Pete, and undoubtedly more powerful and dangerous: but he’s nicely counter-balanced by Lord Roland/Rory Netherbridge, perhaps a more unusual (but wholly believable, and distinctly dishy) romantic lead in his present day incarnation as local rector. Interestingly – and in the many time-slip books I’ve read, I think the first time I’ve seen it – Rory also has an awareness of his parallel existence, and that makes the whole premise considerably more intriguing.
Another major strength is the strikingly vivid recreation of the historical setting. I never fail to be impressed when depth of knowledge and research is quite evident, but used only to add richness to a story’s telling: when you read this one, do read the author’s afterword about the story’s historical context too, because it’s quite fascinating. I also very much liked the historical back story – of Lady Vivianne’s parents – drawing in some really nice touches of Arthurian myth and legend.
The story is just wonderful – gripping, with very real threat and danger, an enthralling mystery focused on hidden treasure, a wholly convincing romance, all across both timelines. It’s one of those books that it’s good to read in one sitting, letting the real world disappear – that’s exactly what I did, and it was the loveliest way to spend an afternoon.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one – and whether you enjoy time-slip or just a really well-told story, it’s most certainly one I’d recommend.
With thanks to Julia and Rachel, I’m pleased to offer the chance to win a paperback copy of The Old Rectory, plus a book mark, postcard, key ring, and handbag fob (UK only). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions UK entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Acclaimed, award-winning author Julia Ibbotson is fascinated by the medieval world and concepts of time travel. She read English at Keele University, England (after a turbulent but exciting gap year in Ghana, West Africa) specialising in medieval language, literature and history, and has a PhD in socio-linguistics. She wrote her first novel at 10 years of age, but became a school teacher, then an academic as a senior university lecturer and researcher.
As well as medieval time-slip, she has published a number of books, including memoir/history of food (The Old Rectory), children’s medieval fantasy (S.C.A.R.S), a trilogy opening in 1960s Ghana (Drumbeats), and many academic works. Apart from insatiable reading, she loves travelling the world, singing in choirs, swimming, yoga and walking in the countryside in England and Madeira where she and her husband divide their time.
You can find her at: