It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the promotional push for A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson: the first in the Dr DuLac series (yes, that means there will be more to follow), it’s now available for kindle with its rather striking new cover via Amazon in the UK and US (and free via Kindle Unlimited). My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support.
I’m really delighted to see that Julia is planning a series – in fact, I see that the second, The Dragon Tree, set in medieval Madeira, is already out, published on 25th November, and I must try and add it to my reading list as soon as I can. She joined me for an interview here on Being Anne back in September 2018 (you can read that post again here), and 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 I finally read and reviewed A Shape on the Air in February 2020 and very much enjoyed it – so much so that I’d like to share my review again today. But first, let’s take a closer look…
A haunting Anglo-Saxon time-slip of mystery and romance
Can echoes of the past threaten the present? They are 1500 years apart, but can they reach out to each other across the centuries? One woman faces a traumatic truth in the present day. The other is forced to marry the man she hates as the ‘dark ages’ unfold.
How can Dr Viv DuLac, medievalist and academic, unlock the secrets of the past? Traumatised by betrayal, she slips into 499 AD and into the body of Lady Vivianne, who is also battling treachery. Viv must uncover the mystery of the key that she unwittingly brings back with her to the present day, as echoes of the past resonate through time.
But little does Viv realise just how much both their lives across the centuries will become so intertwined. And in the end, how can they help each other across the ages without changing the course of history?
For fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, Christina Courtenay.
One you might enjoy? I can never resist a time-slip romance – here’s my review once more…
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.
Praise for A Shape on the Air
“In the best Barbara Erskine tradition …I would highly recommend this novel” -Historical Novel Society
“Amazing …a really great book …I just couldn’t put it down” – Hazel Morgan
“Well-rounded characters and a wealth of historical research make this a real page-turner” – Amazon review
“Julia does an incredible job of setting up the idea of time-shift so that it’s believable and makes sense” – Amazon review
“Viv/Lady Vivianne … lovely identifiable heroine in both time periods….I love her strength and vulnerability. And Rory/Roland is simply gorgeous!” – Melissa Morgan
“gripping … a very real sense of threat and danger, an enthralling mystery … a wholly convincing romance, across both timelines” – Anne Williams (yes – that’s me!)
About the author
Julia Ibbotson is fascinated by the medieval world and the concept of time. She sees her author brand as a historical fiction writer of romantic mysteries that are evocative of time and place, well-researched and uplifting page-turners. Her current series focuses on early medieval time-slip/dual-time mysteries.
Julia read English at Keele University, England, specialising in medieval language/ literature/ history, and has a PhD in socio-linguistics. After a turbulent time in Ghana, West Africa, she became a school teacher, then a university academic and researcher. Her break as an author came soon after she joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2015, with a three-book deal from Lume Books (Endeavour) for a trilogy (Drumbeats) set in Ghana in the 1960s. She has published three other books, including A Shape on the Air, an Anglo-Saxon timeslip mystery, and its two sequels The Dragon Tree and The Rune Stone.
Her work in progress is the first of a new series of Anglo-Saxon mysteries (Daughter of Mercia) where echoes of the past resonate across the centuries. Her books will appeal to fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, and Christina Courtenay. Her readers say: ‘Julia’s books captured my imagination’, ‘beautiful story-telling’, ‘evocative and well-paced storylines’, ‘brilliant and fascinating’ and ‘I just couldn’t put it down’.
You can find her at: