Author: Jon McConnell and Dayna McConnell
Title-The Time Trials
Publisher- Tiny Fox Press
Publication Date- Sept 21st 2021
Comments- With thanks to The BBNYA and the authors for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own and in no way shaped by nefarious time travel shenanigans.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/Time-Trials-Jon-McConnell-ebook/dp/B08TT83FQ4 (Canada)
BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website http://www.bbnya.com or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.
“Four players. It’s in the rules.”
“Is this like, some sort of academic decathlon or something?”
“Something like that.”
Walkman-toting, guitar-playing Finn Mallory blames himself for his parents’ deaths and would do anything to turn back time and set things right. So, when he’s recruited into a secret club at his new school that specializes in competitive time travel games, Finn sees a world of opportunity open before him.
The games, however, are far from benign.
Competition is cutthroat.
Scenarios are rigged.
And the mysterious timekeepers who organize it all have no qualms about using- or disposing of- players to suit their own sinister plans.
Now Finn must decide who he can trust while making peace with his past if he’s to have any hope of leading his team to victory and surviving his junior year.
After the death of his parents, Finn is a shoo-in for the scholarship place at a private boarding school. Branded an ‘Unfortunate’ by the snooty students, Finn rebuffs the friendship of popular Everly assuming she is playing a joke on him. But when a teacher pulls the two of them together, along with Valerie the athlete and Edison an autistic loner, into a secret historical club he starts to wonder if he’s made a mistake.
When the club turns out to be a competition between rival schools for the students to go back in time to achieve a specific goal whether that is to steal an artefact or change history.
But there is someone manipulating matters so that these tasks can be more than deadly and the person pulling the strings doesn’t care who gets hurt.
My thoughts on this book are a little muddled because some parts of the book would have rated it a 4 or even 5-star read whereas the parts that let it down were so low that it would have brought it down to a 2-star. So on average it just ended up as a 3-Star average read which is a true shame as it could have been so much more.
Firstly the concept is pretty good. It feels like a teen version of The Chronicles of St. Mary’s books by Jodi Taylor but with elements of the Tri-Wizard tournament from Harry Potter thrown in.
The idea of a competition in which the participants go back in time to steal something or change a minute part of history was fascinating. I really enjoyed the premise and the second half of the book really ramped up the tension and the action; especially the parts where they were on the Titanic. I thought that the action parts of this were excellently written and I could have read so much more of their actual trials. This part was the best by far.
I did have a few reservations- I mean the way that they were sure that nothing they did could mess with the space-time continuum and radically alter the present was a little convenient and at odds with physics and many many other time travel movies but they had to have some sort of rationale for being able to play with time so I let it go.
Sadly the characterisation was nowhere near as good. I found the characters to be bland and uninspiring, with few exceptions and the format of the boarding school and its students was formulaic.
The rich kids looking down on the ‘unfortunate’ for their background was classist, a little predictable and almost lazy. The hot jock being mean to the boy from the other side of the tracks because his girl fancied him is so overdone as to be cliched. Even the other schools’ team were just stereotypes. Whenever the ‘evil twins’ were mentioned I just thought of the siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp or some bad guys in white snow suits.
The ancillary characters were just blah as background. Everley was practically a Mary Sue with her tragic back story, her longing for the new guy despite how poor he is and her ‘not like other rich girls’ persona. Finn was very believable with his issues but insta-attraction to Everly, when she hadn’t really done anything other than exist, was a bit much.
Two characters who really shined were Valerie and Edison. Valerie was a great character, smart and protective and I really enjoyed the depth bought to her. Edison was brilliant as an autistic genius. Rather than focus on the genius aspect, we really got to see the deeper side of autism. He was a breath of fresh air and I loved reading about him. I could have had a whole book just with the interactions between Valerie and Edison; they were far more interesting than Finn and Everly.
Finally, the pacing was off. I almost DNFed a few times because the first half was so slow. It read more like a teen romance with longing looks and high school drama than an action/ adventure story and that was not what I was there for. I could have done with far more insight into the preparation for the trials rather than “they went to the library” and the few pages that were focused on the trials. Even the feast and meeting up with the other schools had more potential than the romance aspect of the book.
It wasn’t until the second half of the book that I started to be truly gripped and to care about Finn and what he was going through. The on-again-off-again aspect of his and Evberly’s relationship was tedious but his friendship with Edison was wonderful.
I’m glad this book made it as far as it did in the BBNYA as it was one that I enjoyed but I do think it could have been so much more with just a few adjustments and more focus on the actual Trials.
Dayna is a fourth-grade teacher and California history nerd. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading historical fiction, obsessing over music or stewarding her family’s Little Free Library. Her favourite parts of writing are developing character arcs and relationships and playing with permeating themes and symbols.
Jon is the “pantser” of the duo. He is a fan of science-fiction, horror, and post-apocalyptic epics. He is also an avid Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan, a Magic the Gathering enthusiast, and lover of anything zombie.
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