Title: The Outcasts of Time
Author: Ian Mortimer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Religious, Time Travel
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars (DNF)
Did Not Finish (DNF) @ 40%
Let me start by saying I love historical books. Especially ones that teach me about things I may not have known or help to bring to light nuances that I had perhaps not thought of before. However, writers absolutely must bring me into the time period in a way that is interesting and intriguing. Telling me about tin mining, church/state representation, clothing and the food is just dull.
The Outcasts of Time starts during the time of the Black Plague with two travelling brothers. The conditions are deplorable and humanity is on high alert as the plague is understood to be contagious (even if they didn't know what that word was at the time). A number of factors puts the brothers in a situation where they accept a 'deal' from a higher (or lower) power of some sort and end up agreeing to live their last 6 days out one day every 99 years.
Sounds cool right?!
It really should be. Except that when you start in the 1300's it means you're next 6 years will take you only up to 1900's. I made it far enough in the book to get to 1500's and yet it barely felt like a change over the 200 years. Ian Mortimer restricts the changes into the viewpoint of types of clothing, religious buildings and other built up infrastructure. It's just not enough.
Church and State
Without a doubt you cannot discuss the 1300's or any time period up to the 1900's without talking about the drastic changes in religion, and the eventual division of church and state. From areas changing religions entirely, merging areas of Christianity and witch hunts of 1500-1600's there is a lot of change. Normally I would be all over learning about these changes but Mortimer takes the religious tone of this book (as our brothers are looking to 'redeem' themselves in their remaining 6 days) and makes it so dull I kept feeling like I was going to fall asleep. I really tried to understand and get into the heads of the brothers experiencing this religious shock; unfortunately I never felt connected or much emotion for either of them.
Perhaps had I felt some connection with the brothers I might have been able to better appreciate some of their shock from one time period to the next. The reality was that I couldn't seem to even feel badly for the one brother when he realizes he will never see his wife and kids again. The other brother just seems to be along for the ride with no purpose and the personality of a cardboard box.
Even a boring plot can still be interesting if the reader can connect with the characters and finds them interesting. These two brothers just didn't engage me at all on a mental or emotional level.
It's really unfortunate because the end of The Outcasts of Time might be very impactful; but at the 40% mark I just didn't care anymore. I was bored reading about tin mining, changes in length and colours of clothing, or the general shock of each day they wake up in a new time period. Maybe the length of one day per time is too short to really make an impression (although I did not want this book to be longer let me assure you); but somewhere along the way Mortimer just lost me and had me falling asleep.
If I'm missing out on an amazing resolution to this story I've come to terms with it. At least by DNFing at 40% I won't spend days trying to get through the pages of the story desperately trying to stay awake and engaged.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.