If you met Nick Davenant you would probably think he was a normal, unremarkable young man, enjoying life in 2013 as the owner of a dairy farm in Vermont, whose biggest worry is a visit from the cheese inspector. But once, Nick Davenant was Lord Nicholas Falcott, Marquess of Blackdown, an English aristocrat who fought in the Napoleonic Wars.
With an enemy soldier about to kill him on a Spanish battlefield one fateful day in 1812, Nick jumps forward almost two hundred years into the future and finds himself waking up in the twenty-first century. Here he learns that he is now a member of ‘the Guild’, a secret society of time travellers like himself. With the help of the Guild, Nick is able to adapt to modern life and accepts that there can be “no return”. Then one day Nick receives a letter from the Guild summoning him to London, where he is informed that they are going to break their own rules and send him back to his own time on a very special mission…
Back in the nineteenth century again, Nick meets his old friend, Julia Percy, who lives at nearby Dar Castle. In Nick’s absence Julia’s grandfather, the fifth Earl of Darchester, has died and her greedy, brutal cousin Eamon has become the new Earl. Grandfather had a very unusual ability: he could manipulate time, and Julia appears to have inherited this special gift. And when she discovers that Eamon is searching for the Talisman, an object he believes will give him the power to control time, Julia decides not to tell anybody about her secret talent.
I’ve always enjoyed books with a time travel element and The River of No Return is one of the most original and imaginative I’ve read for a long time. This is a time travel novel where the manipulation of time forms a big part of the plot – jumping forwards in time, jumping backwards in time, freezing time, speeding time up and slowing time down. However, after Nick’s initial jump into the future and then back again, which all takes place during the first third of the novel, we don’t actually see much movement between the centuries. The majority of the story is set in Regency England, a world where people travel by horse and carriage, where girls look forward to going to London for the Season, and where the Corn Bill is being debated in Parliament. As a fan of historical fiction who enjoys reading about the Regency period, I was very happy about this and in fact, it wasn’t until Nick left the modern day behind and returned to the past that I really found myself being pulled into the story.
The book did feel a bit too long and I thought there were too many lengthy conversations about the mechanisms of time travel, but overall, after a slow start, I thought this was a great debut novel – not purely science fiction, fantasy, romance or historical fiction, but a mixture of all four. The ending felt very abrupt and left me wanting to know more, so I hope Bee Ridgway is planning a sequel. I would happily read more of Nick and Julia’s adventures.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley for review.