Written by Janet B. Taylor
Published March, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genres: Historical, Time Travel
Purchase: The Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia
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When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers.
Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time.
Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.
I really wanted to like Into the Dim. The premise intrigued me and any time travel book that has a recommendation from Diana Gabaldon promises fantastic things. Unfortunately, Into the Dim fell victim to many YA tropes and I ended up agreeing with a lot of fellow readers that it was quite a lacklustre read.
Into the Dim begins with our main character, Hope, suffering through the supposed death of her mother. We soon learn that Hope is, in fact, adopted and even though her ‘father’ isn’t her real father (or was even with her mother when she was adopted) they have a pretty solid relationship.
The first thing I noticed was that the familial relationships within Into the Dim were overly complicated when they didn’t have to be. At times it felt like the author didn’t even have her facts straight, or even remembered that she had already revealed that Hope and her mother weren’t related by blood. I’m struggling to even explain it – it was just odd. There were many times I had to scratch my head and try to remember what I’d already read.
“I wish to request that Hope come spend the summer with me, here at Christopher Manor. As you are aware, the manor is located in a lovely area of the Scottish Highlands. I feel its pastoral landscape could be soothing to Hope. As there are other young people who live at the manor, she will not lack company of her own age.”
When Hope gets to Scotland in order to stay with her Aunt (and learn more about her mother’s secret heritage) I thought things would be brilliant. SCOTLAND! I thought for sure that this was where the book would shine – after all, all the promotional material is tartan and the book itself is paraded as ‘Outlander for teens’.
But, sadly, the Scotland of Into the Dim felt flat and dull. There was no atmosphere or life within it. Hope could have been riding her horse against a cardboard backdrop for all the feeling it gave me. It’s also important to make clear that the majority of this book DOES NOT take place in Scotland. It merely serves as the setting for her Aunt’s House, while Hope is introduced to the world of time travel. Once said time-traveling is underway, we’re in medieval England. I am, once again, baffled as to why everyone zeroed in on ‘Scotland’ for the advertising for this one.
here were many times I had to scratch my head and try to remember what I’d already read.
“My thoughts drifted to the boy from the river. Bran Cameron. I’d kept my promise. Hadn’t told a soul about his trespassing. He wasn’t hurting anyone, after all…”
While in Scotland, we meet the ‘mysterious’ Bran Cameron… It’s your typical boy-meets-girl in predictable circumstances. Bran also tells Hope not to tell anyone that they met, and she agrees, even though she learns about a rival time traveling group called the ‘Timeslippers’. Though Bran isn’t that spectacular in my opinion, Hope can’t stop thinking about him. After all, she’s never had a boy like her.
Hope, plagued with ailments her whole life (oh and she has a PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY!) remains utterly dull and boring the whole book, yet because she’s the main character, absolutely everyone adores her and falls in love with her.
Apart from Bran, we have Collum, the son of Hope’s mother’s lost love. He’s on the ‘good’ time travelling team, the ‘Viators’, and doesn’t seem to give Hope the time of day. But we know better, don’t we? While Bran is overly flirtatious and bad boy, Collum is the ‘good guy’ and pretends to hate her, all while stealing glances and looking uncomfortable whenever she comes out in a new outfit.
Rounding out the main cast of characters is Phoebe, Collum’s sister and the trope-y ‘quirk’y girl. I soon came to the conclusion that none of the characters of Into the Dim brought anything new to the table. Instead they all slotted into the usual YA cut-outs.
“The Dim’ll open in six days,” she said. “One of its weird quirks is that it won’t allow a person to go back to the same place and time more than once. It’s been tried in the past.”
There was a lot of set up before anything remotely time-travel-y happened. There was quite a lot of information dumping (Tesla coils enable time-travel, the Nonius stone, the history of the Timeslippers versus the Viators, etc) before we learned that Hope’s mother wasn’t in fact dead, she was merely trapped in time by her supreme nemesis and former childhood friend, Celia Alvarez, head of the Timeslippers.
Hope is, of course, her mother’s only chance of survival. Together with Collum and Phoebe, Hope travels back in time to the time of Eleanor of Aquitane in Medieval England.
Turns out Hope’s team was the most inept team for the job. We were supposed to believe that both Collum and Phoebe had done this a few times before. I mean, they were trained as kids… yet they were totally useless in the grand scheme of things. Collum, meant to be their leader, made one of the most stupid moves and then had the gall to chastise Hope for a lesser mistake. I can’t even describe to you how frustrating it was, and how unbelievable it was that Phoebe and Collum were experienced Viators.
Hope, totally winging it on her first journey, made reckless decisions that somehow ended up working miraculously. And of course, the mysterious Bran Cameron wasn’t who he said he was initially (surprise, surprise) and ending up being thrown into the mix, too.
All in all, Into the Dim was quite teeth-grating.
“In his arms, I felt the sense of unbelonging I’d lived with my whole life begin to fade away. The grief at losing my mother. The confusion when I learned she was still alive. It all disappeared as Bran rocked me in his arms while the wind keened and tugged at our cloaks and hair.”
The one thing I did enjoy about this book, however, was that it was easy to read. The chapters weren’t too long, so you felt like you were making progress and kept wanting to push on. The writing wasn’t terrible, but I would have liked things to have been more fleshed out rather than so many landscapes packed into one book.
If Janet B. Taylor had steered clear of the overused YA clichés, then I think Into the Dim would have been more of a success for me. There were also too many elements that were messy, such as Hope and Bran’s true heritage, as well as the history with their adoptive parents. It could have been simplified quite a lot and in turn been more enjoyable from a reader’s perspective.
This is, of course a series… As much as I’d love to get invested in another historical time-travelling journey, I don’t think this is one I’ll be continuing.