Veil of Time
The very thing about Veil of Time which caught my eye is also something that made me dislike the book even more than I ordinarily would have. And what might that be? Well, let’s just say that the repeated comparisons to Outlander that I saw in cover copy and in the author interview inside the book gave this novel very big shoes to fill. And it didn’t even come close.
The heroine in this book really does have a tragic backstory. Maggie lost her daughter and that loss, combined with her own uncontrolled epilepsy, eventually pulled her marriage apart. With her surviving son off at boarding school, Maggie has gone to Dunadd, Scotland to do some research and introspection. Lots of introspection. In fact, parts of the book are told in first person so readers get to spend lots of time getting claustrophobic inside Maggie’s navel-gazing mind. Maggie has a way of looking at a small object or occurrence and thinking obsessively about it until it becomes imbued with some great cosmic significance, and I suspect this will drive some readers batty.
Maggie leads a pretty narrow existence out in Dunadd. Her only real interactions seem to be with her cat and with her semi-reclusive neighbor, an older widower who is a font of historical information and the occasional awkward flirtation. The real focus of the story comes from Maggie’s non-modern interactions. Her seizures start to send her on temporary jaunts back to 8th century Dunadd, in a time where the Scotti ruled in Dunadd but were on the eve of being overrun by the Picts.
The historical background of Maggie’s travels back in time was fascinating, and the author includes many details of 8th century culture. It’s a time not often covered in historical romance or general fiction, and the window into the past is intriguing. Less compelling was Maggie’s 8th century romance with Fergus, the brother of the ruler of Dunadd. Bascially, in an attempt to figure out who this strange-looking creature is, Fergus grabs Maggie’s crotch the first time he meets her. Not long after, Maggie sees that the widowed Fergus has a daughter who looks like her own deceased child and is somewhat haunted by the girl. And this is apparently how love starts to blossom. I didn’t find their story all that romantic, but maybe the right Scottish prince hasn’t randomly grabbed my crotch yet.
While the romance wasn’t all that compelling, the historical events of the story kept my attention. Maggie’s travels take her back to Dunadd at a time when the Picts are about the overrun the community there and also a time when Christian missionaries are making inroads into the druidic religion and culture of the place. I enjoyed learning more of the history and since I knew the invasion was coming, I kept watching for signs of the upcoming events every time Maggie found her way back in time.
To sum up – the romance in Veil of Time just wasn’t all that compelling, the heroine annoyed me greatly, and I kept getting the feeling that the author was trying way too hard to make this book Literary rather than using solid language to tell a good story. What do I mean by that? Well, Maggie spends lots of time turning mundane things into big, profound questions and I could tell as I read that the author was trying to hit on larger questions of religion, love, time, and so on. However, somewhere in these musings, compelling writing and good storytelling got lost. At least one love scene in here could get a nomination for the Literary Review’s annual Bad Sex Award, but that’s about the extent of it.
Time travel and time slip novels can be done wonderfully. However, if that’s what you’re after, I’d look elsewhere. Veil of Time is no Outlander, and fascinating historical background cannot make up for lack of a compelling story.