… great fun alt. history …
I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while and the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary‘s arrived before the first. Undeterred, I went right ahead and read A Symphony of Echoes. It didn’t matter; the writing doesn’t take itself seriously and I just went along for the ride. And what a ride! Jodi sets her protagonist, Max, off at a tremendous lick, ricocheting from Victorian slums to c12th Canterbury to Ancient Nineveh taking in dodos and arch villainy at the same time.
The background to the series is the St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research: an academic establishment full of historians who travel in pods to investigate major past events. This allows Jodi to take her pick of any historical episode and drop her characters straight into the heart of it; her vivid imagining of the past adds to the fun and the story can lift itself up and put whenever it wants. All this frenetic activity teeters on the brink of excess, but I can forgive Jodi as she has created a splendid character, Madeleine Maxwell. It’s told in the first person and the speed of the narrative is heightened by this smart, sassy, possibly damaged young woman’s stream of observations and one-liners.
Cover design moment: The old UK covers of this series all feature a rather cool clock spiral, looking rather like a trilobite, and a book-specific mock historical painting. It’s fine but … the fuzziness wouldn’t grab me if I was browsing in a bookshop. I prefer the new design even though there are quite a few cod Victorian covers around at the moment. They are altogether brighter and echo the breeziness of the storytelling – which, I think, is a great selling point.
Jodi Taylor ‘s biog states (amongst other things) … born in Bristol and educated in Gloucester (facts both cities vigorously deny), she spent many years with her head somewhere else, much to the dismay of family, teachers and employers, before finally deciding to put all that daydreaming to good use and pick up a pen …
She started out self publishing her novels, very successfully, before being approached by independent publishers, Accent Press. A quick and interesting account of her journey can be found here at the Writers’ Workshop website. Jodi, herself, writes some very entertaining blog posts on her own website, here.
This book is the third review in my British Books Challenge 2017.
A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Peters is published by Accent Press. Emily at Emily’s Bookshop recommended it to me. Thanks, Em!