Gwyneth Shepherd, born in 1994, is now 16, the age at which those few who inherit the time-travel gene start to travel at unexpected times into the past. This can obviously be quite inconvenient as well as dangerous, so a sub rosa society evolved: “The Guardians” – who not only act to keep the trait itself a secret, but help exert control over the traveling impulse. They developed a “chronograph” to send gene-carrying people to specific periods on a regular basis, thus rendering the activity more predictable.
Gwyneth never gave much thought to time travel. Although her family descended from the chronologically sensitive line, it was always expected that her cousin, Charlotte, would be the one with the gene. Anyway, Gwen has a “power” of her own – she can see, and communicate with, ghosts from the past (even though no one believes her except her best friend Lesley).
According to the writings of The Guardians (quoted at the beginning of each chapter), there is often a pair of travelers alive at any one time – a male and a female. Eighteen-year-old Gideon has already been active for two years. Suddenly, the chosen female turns out to be Gwen, not Charlotte, and Gwen is thrust into a life for which she was not prepared at all.
How and why Charlotte was groomed for the role instead of Gwen is part of the mystery that is unraveled as the story progresses. And there are mysteries aplenty! How does the chronograph work, and where is the missing original chronograph? Where are the two time travelers who disappeared in the previous generation? Why did the Guardians predict that the twelfth traveler (who is Gwyneth) would be the last? And who is the Count with the Transylvanian sidekick who seems to be in charge of the process?
Evaluation: It’s clear right in the beginning this will be an entertaining book. It’s not as intellectual or well-written as the time travel books of Connie Willis, but it’s fun and more geared (in terms of dialogue and plot developments) to teens (…and to big superannuated teens like me).
Note: There is a sequel, Sapphire Blue, which I will certainly be reading, and an eventual third because of course it is a trilogy!
Published in the U.S. by Henry Holt and Company, 2011