The Timeseer’s Gambit
#2 The Faraday Files
by Kate McIntyre
Rating 4 Stars
‘It’s been three months since mild-mannered Christopher Buckley began working with Olivia Faraday, the eccentric Deathsniffer. They’ve hunted killers, solved murders, and learned to work together. But their greatest challenges are yet to come…
As a brutal heat wave wracks an increasingly unstable Darrington City, someone is killing young priests. Worse, they are using bound elementals to do it. As Chris and Olivia contend with rogue spiritbinders and a church under siege, the clock ticks down toward the trial of Doctor Francis Livingstone, accused of orchestrating the fall of the Floating Castle and the death of thousands. Chris believes the doctor is innocent, but the tide of the conspiracy aligned against him is strong enough to wash away anyone who would stand for him.
How far is Chris willing to go to save the doctor? Can Darrington city survive the rival forces tearing it apart? And can Olivia find her first serial killer before another body drops?’
I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. What follows is my own opinion.
This is a review of the second book in a series and as such will contain spoilers for the first book reviewed here.
I found it hard to get back into the novel at the beginning – I wish I still had my ARC of the first book then I could have got my head back around the terminology and the complicated political landscape. I would fully recommend reading Deathsniffer first – this is not a series that you can easily start part way through.
Will, the eponymous Timeseer of the title, is probably my favourite character. I didn’t mention him in my review of the first book as we only saw a glimpse of him and he was fairly mysterious. His attitude towards Chris, his adamant belief that they had known each other previously and his determination to help him even when it meant breaking the rules all seemed to be leaning down a particular route and I’m glad that McIntyre actually followed this path as it made things very interesting. Outside of his role in the plot, he’s just a very cool person: I love his categorisation, his certainty of himself and his principles. The glimpses we get of his past are fascinating and make complete sense with regard to his actions within the series.
There are still moments throughout the novel where I feel like Chris needs a really good shake, but he has developed a great deal as a character. He’s still better at people than Olivia and his newfound personal grief allows him to connect with the victims in a way that he never could previously. I’m intrigued to see where McIntyre takes him in the next few books as he’s still got a long way to go. I rarely enjoy reading books where characters are self professed ‘cowards’ like Rincewind in Terry Pratchett’s series, as they largely end up being comic and quite boring. But Chris – despite being repeatedly described by his family, friends and coworkers as ‘delicate’ – is different, he’s naturally anxious about the world and sometimes shies away from situations where his friends might just barge right in. But he’s beginning to gain greater confidence now, as his safe world starts to unravel and his struggle to become something more is great to read.
Despite following Chris and Olivia on another case, we don’t get that much more insight into Olivia’s head. I think this is a very deliberate choice on McIntyre’s part, rather than any sort of narrative failing. At the beginning of the book Chris is feeling isolated, unable to connect with Olivia on the level he has previously with Rosemary and Ferdinand, living alone for the first time in his life. So I understood the reasons for McIntyre doing this and it’s not to say that Olivia is without any further character development – she’s definitely a very different character from the beginning of the series. But there were aspects of her past that I had hoped to have some more insight into and we don’t see that – hopefully this is something more for the next book.
McIntyre does a good job of describing Chris’ mental state, after the events at the end of the last book it makes sense that he isn’t in a good place. Everything in his life is upside down, he’s been separated from his sister, his mentor has committed suicide and he’s having to deal with the fallout of his parent’s legacy.
I liked the way she explored the history between Will and Chris that she’d only hinted at previously. I loved the fact that McIntyre picks up the threads of underlying tension in the first novel and fleshes them out further without giving us all the answers.
In terms of the case, I really enjoyed how Olivia’s first serial murder is depicted. The motives are complex and the characters involved in it are equally well drawn, I also think it was a brilliant way to explain the predominant religion of this world. The concept of the holy families and the fact that the uncategorised are given to the church was really intriguing. I also loved the idea that due to the dying out of different categories the churches were overwhelmed by those joining, especially from more privileged families where they would usually be strongly powered and were now ‘reduced’ to a life of service. I liked that Chris was tied into it through his childhood friendship to one of the victims, the fact that the Floating Castle incident still seems to loom over everything.
There are definitely still issues with the series, I’m in two minds about how vague McIntyre is about what’s actually involved in categorisation. I like the idea that it’s a murky topic so people don’t talk about it, don’t like to even think about it. But as a reader things are still a bit too unclear for me. I’m hoping that one of the books coming up is going to be focusing on this in more detail.
There was so much in the first book that it was difficult to remember the myriad little details that McIntyre explores in greater depth here. I’d honestly forgotten about Rachel Albany and her brother’s link to the reformists, I’d also forgotten who Doctor Livingstone was so it took me a while to remember that he was actually someone we had encountered before.
Please be warned there are elements of Love Triangle hanging about here, although it’s dealt with quite well so I’m hopeful of avoiding the usual horrors!
My only other quibble is the prologue, which I felt was largely redundant and frankly, not as well written as the rest of the book. It all felt a bit like an overdone romance novel, largely because McIntyre’s attempts to hide identities keep referring to the man as ‘The Doctor’. Personally I felt that we could have done without it, there was enough in the rest of the novel to pick up on about what had really happened in Chris’ childhood. This was a bit too much like showing your had too early.
There’s still some issues that will hopefully be resolved as the series progresses, but I flew through the book and I’m already looking forward to the next one. Would definitely recommend.