Described as a young adult Outlander—and being a fan of that series as well as young adult fiction—Janet B. Taylor’s upcoming Into the Dim immediately caught my eye. The first book in what promises to be an interesting time-exploration series aimed at teens, Into the Dim offers explorations of parent/child relationships, the links between cause and effect, and how much say people have in defining themselves.
It’s been eight months since Hope Walton’s mother was presumably killed in an earthquake overseas. Her mother’s sister—whom she’s never met—invites Hope for a visit to the family’s ancestral home in Scotland and promises Hope she will learn more about herself and the mother she still mourns. Hope’s low expectations are turned on their head when she discovers that the family secrets involve an underground cavern where the ley lines of the earth converge to allow time travel. What’s more, Hope’s mother isn’t dead after all, simply marooned in the past by a rival band of time travelers who make a profit off of stealing artifacts regardless of the impact such interference has on history. Hope and two companions are to be sent back to find and bring her mother home safely but before she leaves, Hope encounters a strangely familiar young man who turns out to have an unexpected connection to her.
There are definitely some similarities to the Outlander series as far as the manner of time travel featured in both as well as the role stones play in the rules of that time traveling. Other elements certainly support the “Outlander for teens” marketing strategy, though it remains to be seen whether this new series will follow the unorthodox approach to romantic relationships that Outlander does or whether it will fall more in line with a lot of recent young adult series and the prevalence of both love triangles and the will-they, won’t-they push and pull.
Into the Dim is an ambitious undertaking with quite a few major threads woven in that promise greater exploration in subsequent installments. Laying down the rules for how time travel in this series works as well as establishing the central characters and antagonisms that will continue moving forward, my biggest disappointment with the book was the pacing—that everything happened too quickly and there wasn’t enough time put into letting things breathe before the next bit was being thrown at the reader. For all the plot lines at play in the book, it could easily have been at least another hundred pages. It turns out Hope’s mother is trapped in 12th century London during the days surrounding the coronation of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. There is a quick history lesson as part of the story so that the reader can understand the importance of the prominent historical figures who appear but there isn’t a lot of time to get the feel for the place and time period itself. There are plenty of descriptive details but it feels cursory and obligatory—which, given the rigid timeline set out for that part of the plot, makes sense but I found disappointing.
The timeline of events within the story also feels particularly rushed. There’s very little time between Hope’s arrival at her aunt’s house, when they leave on their mission, and when they have to return by. I think that’s part of what makes their time in the past a bit anti-climactic—even with the obstacles and twists they encounter, things still feel a bit too convenient (especially for all the plot lines that are in unfolding in that short amount of time). Hopefully this is an aspect of the story telling that will find greater balance in future installments as the series finds its footing. The characters are engaging and the backstory that provides the narrative foundation feels solid enough for Into the Dim to be the first in a lengthy series.
Into the Dim will be available for purchase on March 1, 2016.