Into the Dim is one of the QueryShark books I was posting about on Monday. When I saw it on Netgalley, the blurb billed it as a YA Outlander, and since I've never read Outlander but heard good things--plus, I recognized the plot!--I figured I'd give it a whirl.
I go back and forth on whether I'm not the audience for this book, or if it's just not great. On one hand, I think it would work much better for an actual teenager--the romance especially seems aimed at a very young crowd. On the other, I think part of the reason I think it would work better on a young teen is that it's not just simple but simplistic, and I hate to imply that teenagers don't deserve better than this.
I almost gave up quite a few times over the first half, but I decided that I wanted to write about it, and I try not to write about ARCs that I didn't finish (since that seems unfair). So for the first third, I was giving it a fair shot; for the second third, I was kind of hate-reading. I'll grant it, this, though--for the final third, I wanted to know what would happen. Once the action picked up, it swept me along well enough to keep me interested.
But it took so long to get there! The setup was fully half the book--setting up the emotional stakes, getting Hope to Scotland, and leisurely training/prep time before the actual time travel. There was no tension there, and that made the clunkiness of the writing stand out. I'm pretty sure that every noun in the first chapter had an adjective before it. Definitely at least half of them did. Hope sits in the hot church surrounded by hypocritical people whose loud whispers reach her burning ears. Again, by the time the plot picked up toward the end, I didn't notice the writing anymore, but I noticed the heck out of it for the first chunk of the book.
The villains are broad--Celia's just a Mr. Burns-style caricature of evil; the evil medieval characters are all anti-Semitic (while the good ones don't believe all the horrible things their culture says about the Jews); the loutish guards are looking to rape women at every turn.
Even our main characters are cartoonish. Collum's totally useless and badly timed emotional outbursts--who put him in charge of this mission? Bran's witty comments in the face of anger. Again, maybe this would read as more relatable to a teenager; these kids just seemed whiny to me.
Also, the fact that Hope has literally never had a friend is strange, and used strangely. There are all these moments where she's learning about how important friendship is, but almost none where she has no clear ideas about boundaries, or fails to get social cues. What was her mother thinking? I've read the whole book and still can't figure it out. And don't get me started on how her eidetic memory (which is used in some useful ways in the story) also seems to give her the ability to calculate any physical action perfectly--like, to literally see the possible paths or motions and their results and choose the best one. There are some cool books that use the characters' superpowers like this as plot devices, but this is just a bit much.
Oh, plus: there's a group of bad guys who call themselves the Timeslippers. That's what they named themselves. The good guys are called the Viators. The MacGuffin is called the Nonius Stone. There's a whole stretch where they're doing the time travel world building part where you're just getting these names dumped on you, and you can't help but picturing the Evil Celia trying to make up a name for her renegade time travel group and saying "The Timeslippers! That's it!" and laughing an evil laugh.
So yeah, I didn't care for this book. And I feel bad ripping on it, but there it is. It was pretty bad.