Charlie has never been like the other boys. For one thing, it seems that no one (not even his own mother) can remember his name. His father and Aunt Sophie are historians, stopping at home to visit him only for a month every year. So it's not an enormous surprise when it's revealed that he comes from a long line of time travelers. What is a surprise? The fact that he (and his father) are suddenly on the run from a series of strange clockwork men, who seem determined to change the timeline.
Transported back to the 1700s, Charlie meets a lady fellow traveler (Yvaine) and sets on an adventure to rescue his father and right the timeline.
I received Untimed
to review from the publisher. Thank goodness - otherwise, I sincerely doubt I would have picked it up. I like the idea
of time travel and steampunk, but both are so frequently done poorly. Gavin has constructed a very interesting system of travel. Men can only travel downstream, and women can only go upstream. Therefore, most time travelers travel in pairs (such are Charlie's father and aunt). Time travelers can't kill anyone, but situations can be manipulated to change the past (this is what the tick tock creatures are trying to do!)
I hesitate to categorize this novel as steampunk, as it is set in our own world. But there are clockwork creatures, and eventually we are taken to a world full of clockwork and steam powered machines, so I think it counts. Generally, my problem with steampunk is that it makes no sense - why are these inefficient machines in use instead of electricity? But in the case of Untimed, the manipulations make sense with the plotline.
Characterization is strong. Charlie is a sympathetic character, who shows an admirable ability to make hard choices for the greater good. Yvaine is perhaps not quite as well conceived, but she's certainly more than just another love interest. We meet famous figures such as Ben Franklin, who have their own personalities, and even minor characters shine.
The plot moves quickly. I felt as though the world were very well described, down to the way things smell (in fact, smell is very important - the author makes a point of telling us how different time periods smell.) I was never bored, and read the entire book in one sitting. I am looking forward to the next in the series - the book ends on a cliffhanger, and I really want to know the conclusion! Highly recommended to readers looking for well plotted YA steampunk with a male protagonist.