The beginning: I was so excited about the premise of The River of No Return that I checked it out from the library the self-same day I read Alice’s review! It is about a Guild made up of people who have the power to jump forward in time. People usually do it when they are under threat of death; and upon their arrival in the future, the Guild finds them, teaches them how to live in modern times, and sets them loose with a stipend to cover their expenses. This is the only option for people who jump forward in time, because there is no jumping backward.
Except, of course, that it turns out there is. Nick Falcott, once a British aristocrat in the Napoleonic era, has been living in the twenty-first century for a decade before the Guild comes to him and says that they need his help. A group called the Ofan are trying to disrupt the flow of the river of Time; and the Guild is devoted to stopping them, and thereby protecting history.
Cover report: Pretty and unremarkable. I like the incorporation of the tree that means so much to Nick and Julia, but I also feel that this cover is trying a little too hard to yell MAINSTREAM BOOK HERE NOT GENRE AT ALL.
The end (spoilers in this section only; skip them if you don’t want to know): Nick’s neighbor from 1815, Julia Percy, is in a relationship with Nick and apparently has stupendous powers of manipulating time. To nobody’s surprise, Nick is now siding with the Guild’s enemies (ish? this seems open-ended). This ending is clearly setting up a sequel, which is fine by me.
The whole: The River of No Return is a fun and winning book. It has time travel and the attendant fun character perspectives on different times and different social norms. It has a fun romance between a guy I enjoyed and a lady who was mostly reactive in this book but seems to have a lot of potential for becoming awesomely fierce and unstoppable. There are moral dilemmas. There is a looming and unresolved Doom heading for our characters that has something to do with the flow of time, but nobody knows what. The characters are funny and interesting.
The problem for me is that I’ve already read Kage Baker’s Company novels, and the premise of those books is so similar to the premise of this one that I couldn’t stop comparing them in my mind. Both feature a shadowy Company/Guild that wants to control everyone and will punish those they can’t control. Both feature worlds where time appears to end after a certain point (called the Silence in the Company Novels; here referred to as the Pale), and everyone is scrambling to figure out why and whether the danger (they assume it’s danger) can be prevented. After only one book, it’s impossible for me to say whether Bee Ridgway’s series will turn out to be uniquely its own thing; but I know that my love for the Company novels rendered me more skeptical of Ridgway’s plot than I might otherwise have been.
That said, I cheerfully sped through The River of No Return, and I intend to read the sequel when it appears. Derivative or not, it’s awfully fun.