YA Weekend Audio: Into The Dim by Janet B. Taylor
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of Into the Dim
Publisher: Audible Studios (March 1, 2016)
Length: 11 hrs and 12 mins
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
While Into the Dim is not without its flaws (like calling it “an Outlander for teens” might be a bit of a stretch), there’s still no denying this book has its charms. The story is impressively robust for a YA time traveling book, and what it lacks in world-building and logistical explanations, it makes up for with pure entertainment and plenty of fun twists along the way. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed myself.
Most of this story actually takes place in the twelfth century, but first there’s a considerable introduction to establish our main protagonist and her circumstances. We begin with sixteen-year-old Hope Walton at the funeral for her mother Sarah, an academic who was lecturing overseas when an earthquake struck and brought the building down around her. Eight months later, her family has finally given up the search for her body and accepted that she is gone. To help deal with the grief, Sarah’s sister has invited Hope to spend the summer with her in Scotland, and after much reluctance, Hope eventually realizes she has nowhere else to go and accepts.
Now this is where the adventure truly begins. Hope arrives in Scotland and learns more about her family than she’d ever bargained for. Turns out, her aunt is a leader of a group of time traveling agents who are battling another group of rival time travelers to locate a powerful gem lost somewhere in history. That, and Hope finds out that her mother Sarah might be still alive, but trapped in the past. There may be a way to bring her back, but only a small window of opportunity to make that happen, and Hope will need all the training she can get to prepare her for the mission of her life.
Hope and her new friends, fellow time travelers Collum and Phoebe, end up journeying back almost a thousand years to 1154, the year of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s coronation as queen consort of England. As the focal historical figure for this novel, I thought she was a most fascinating choice. One of the most powerful women of her age, Eleanor led an incredible life and was appropriately portrayed as an important character in Into the Dim. Also, the High Middle Ages was a period of much significance and change in Western Europe, creating an intriguing backdrop for the novel. We’re plunged into this world to experience the social, political and religious climate of the times, and author Janet B. Taylor certainly does not skimp on details of the sights, sounds, and–unfortunately—the smells.
For me, there were only two major weaknesses, and they kind of go hand-in-hand with each other. The first is Hope herself. A poster child for “book smart, street stupid” if I ever saw one, our protagonist was born was a photographic memory, but her brilliance is also offset by her staggering social ineptitude. Kept out of “that inbred travesty they call an education system” by her snobby and overprotective mother, Hope grew up completely clueless, which would perfectly explain the scene where she meets Bran Cameron for the first time. This segues into my second gripe: the romance. I’m still appalled by Hope’s reaction to Bran at their first meeting, where she catches him taking stalkerish photos of her with his camera without her knowledge. But instead of running for the hills to the closest police station, what does Hope do? She flirts with the creepy creeperish creeper, and finds his behavior totally adorable and flattering. Ew, no. Sadly, this soured the rest of the relationship for me.
While engaging, the plot is also nothing too deep. The historical aspects and “science” behind the time traveling will not hold up to heavy scrutiny, though to be fair, that’s not really what this book is about. Yes, you’ll definitely have to roll with some punches, but the story is entertaining and holds up well. I liked the fast-pacing, as well as the no-nonsense way Hope and her friends come up with creative ways to solve problems.
It’s worth mentioning too that I listened to the audiobook version, which was amazing. Before this, I had never listened to anything read by Amanda Ronconi, but her performance for Into the Dim made me an instant fan. They couldn’t have chosen a better narrator. With her wide range of accents, she was perfect for a book like this, which features characters from the US and from Scotland. Then, there are those characters from the past. Ronconi’s Olde English accents are convincing, as is the slight French lilt she gives Eleanor of Aquitaine when she reads her lines. I can see how listening to this book might be more immersive experience, compared to reading the dialogue as it is written.
All in all, Into the Dim is quite a lovely novel, even with its flaws. It’s a simple, straightforward book, which serves its purposes to be fun and light-hearted, but that’s not to say there aren’t a couple of unexpected surprises thrown in as well. I found it very refreshing, given the string of bad luck I’ve had with the YA genre lately, and I ended up enjoying this a lot more than I expected.
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