I've had the pleasure of reading the first book in Irina Shapiro's new time-travel series, THE HANDS OF TIME, and I'd like to share my review with you all! Leave a comment for your chance to win a Kindle copy!
About The Hands of Time
Publication Date: December 7, 2011
When a young American woman vanishes without a trace from a quaint fishing village on the coast of England only one person knows the truth, but he remains silent, allowing the authorities to search for her in vain, safe in the knowledge that she will never be found. As Valerie’s bereft sister returns home alone, she struggles to understand what happened and come to terms with her terrible loss when she suddenly stumbles upon a clue that might finally shed some light on her sister’s disappearance.
Meanwhile, Valerie Crane finds herself transported to the year 1605. Terrified and confused she turns for help to the Whitfield brothers, who take her in and offer her a home despite their misgivings about her origins. Both Alexander and Finlay Whitfield fall in love with the mysterious woman who shows up on their doorstep, creating a love triangle that threatens to consume them all. Valerie must make her choice, deciding between the brother who will lead her down the path of destruction or one who will give her the love she couldn’t find in her own time.
THE HANDS OF TIME was a fun, quick read. We're first introduced to Valerie who is going through a seriously rough patch in life, with her cheating husband parading around his impregnated girlfriend after they were not able to conceive a child. ROUGH! I was actually excited for her to travel to a different time and place, just to be away from that mess.
I liked the way in which she traveled back through time. As a writer/reader of time-travels, its nice to see a fresh new take on how the characters can make time leaps. Once Valerie arrived in 1605, however, I found she didn't really seem too surprised, or really to care all that much. Which could have been a side affect of the severe psychological trauma she'd been through--maybe she WANTED to be there. But it wasn't the only case in which I felt I needed just a tad more insight. I would have liked to get deeper into the characters' heads. I found myself questioning their motivation a lot of the time, and wishing I could see what they were thinking.
After finding herself in 1605, Val ends up being taken in by two brothers--Alec and Finlay. They've had a rough time of it too, between their religion not being accepted and the majority of their family dying of illness. They take her in easily, perhaps a bit too easily, but its understood that they are lonely. There is a bit of a love triangle that goes on in this story. My fav was Alec, though at first she ends up with Finlay.
I did enjoy getting to see that various viewpoints of the other characters. With a series this large, I think that is important, especially when you have so many key players. It was great we could see what Louisa (Val's sister) was doing back in present day. The only oddity was that Valerie is in first person and the rest are in 3rd person, sometimes with omniscient narrative prose. BUT, despite it being odd, I liked it because it gave Valerie ownership over the series. This is really her story, even though we get to see inside the heads of the other characters.
Loved the tie-in of Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot--always fun to see real events in books, and how the characters react to them. Lots of political/religious unrest during that time period, and I felt that Ms. Shapiro did play that out well.
Lots of twists and turns, that definitely had me on the edge of my seat. Can't say too much more, or else I'll give it away, and I'm not into spoilers!
I wanted to touch briefly on something that I happened to see on an Amazon thread regarding this book--and that was the history within the book. Normally, I refrain from commenting on these types of things, but I thought it necessary to explain here, because it is giving the book a bad rap. The reviewer was irritated, and brought forth irritation in others, because of the mention of Virginia and shipping exports, etc... from the colonies. The reviewer states that this is impossible given that Jamestown wasn't founded until 1607--true it wasn't. BUT, there were actually people living in VA before 1607. In fact, Sir Walter Raleigh named the area Virginia after Queen Elizabeth in 1584 when he traveled there. Yes, there were ups and downs, and abandoned at times, but that doesn't mean it was non-existent. Simply because it wasn't officially colonized until 1607 doesn't mean that the history within this book is false. Additionally, on the orders of King James in 1603, the "colonies" were exporting from there to England--timber being one of those exports (which the heroes in this series use as their business). We could argue the use of the term plantation, which brings to mind sprawling mansions with white columns, fields of crops and slaves, but in fact, the word plantation simply means large farm--a word that was derived in the 15th century.
I am definitely not an expert in this area, but I wanted to point this out, since some readers were raising their pitchforks over the history. I'd also like to point out this: when reading fiction, we must be able to suspend belief. It is fiction--a tale, an escape, a fantasy. This is a time-travel after all, if we can believe that time travel is possible, why is it so hard to believe that people were shipping timber from the Americas?
Now, the one thing I did find unbelievable was that a doctor in the 17th century could hear a baby's heartbeat with a stethoscope at only 6 weeks of pregnancy... That is unlikely, considering most women don't hear it with a doppler until about 12 wks on average. But, like I said, its fiction! And it didn't detract from the story.
If you're interested in a fast, light read, give this book a look. It's a nice fantastical, sensual read for a day you're snowed in. A little trip through time to Renaissance England. Do be aware that is part of an ongoing series, so all loose ends will not be tied up at the end. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.
Now, I need to go find an old French clock :)
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About the Author
Irina Shapiro was born in Moscow, Russia, where she lived until she was eleven. In 1982 her family emigrated to the United States and settled in New York. Due to her love of reading, Irina was able to pick up English very quickly, and was an honor student throughout her school career.
After graduating from Bernard M. Baruch College in 1992 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business, Irina worked in advertising for two years before shifting her focus to Import/Export. She worked her way up to the position of Import Manager in a large textile house before leaving the work force in 2007 to focus on her autistic son.
It wasn’t until Irina had been at home for some time that she began to write. Eventually the characters began to take on a life of their own and have conversations in her head, and once she started writing her musings down the stories came easily enough. Irina incorporated her love of history and travel into her writing to create a rich and detailed background for the characters. Since then Irina has written eight novels. She is currently working on book five of The Hands of Time Series.
Irina Shapiro lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.
For more information, please visit www.irinashapiro.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.