I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.
Summary: Autumn in the market City of Barchester, and two bright students begin their final year at University, content with old friendships, paying lip-service to old dreams. Until, that is, an ill-conceived prank introduces them to Julian.
For Sophia and Steven, the friendship they form with this worldly stranger marks a coming of age, a possibility to embrace the needs and longings they have never had the language to express. But Julian has his own secrets, and as the nights grow longer, it becomes clear that not all desires are without cost; that some things should never be brought into the light.
Time’s Fool is a novel about monstrosity, about desire and communication. It’s about the self we present to the world and the needs we whisper to ourselves in the darkness. It is about honesty and the fear of honesty. It is about the things we refuse – refuse to say, refuse to seek, refuse to believe – because sometimes, ignoring those things is all that keeps us sane.
Genre(s): New Adult, Supernatural, Romance
Representation: gay primary character, bisexual/pansexual primary character, M/M relationship
Content warnings: blood, mild sexual content, dubious consent, major character death
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This hooked me from the start, with the opening scene where Steven is being obnoxious and philosophical. College students having pretentious but passionate debates about their area of study? Sign me up. (And it’s a recurring theme throughout the novel, which I found delightful!) There’s geeking out and bullshitting your way out of the corner you’ve talked yourself into, and genuine contemplation on the nature of life and love and what have you.
The second great strength of this was the interpersonal relationships which made the aforementioned arguments enjoyable and made the plot in general work. I love the mix of banter and tender moments between Steven, Sophia, and Lucy — even the romantic entanglements worked for me, for the most part — a bond which not even Julian or John could derail. I also loved how matter-of-factly character’s non-heterosexuality is presented, and that it generally subverts stereotypes and tropes. My one concern in this area is that the limited representation leads to some potentially thorny issues which probably could’ve been avoided by just making more characters gay/bi/pan, but considering the already limited primary cast, it’s a relatively minor quibble.
The writing itself was terrific. Enough details to picture the scene, but not so many that it bogged down the action; and each of the POV characters was distinct. The narrative didn’t hinge on big reveals and instead was upfront about what was going on, which was refreshing since I’ve guessed all the twists I’ve come across lately and been underwhelmed by the subsequent lack of tension. I did cringe a little at the sexual parts (nothing overtly explicit, but dancing around the boundary of PG-13), though I’m not sure there would’ve been a non-cringey way to convey some of these scenes.
What didn’t work so well for me was the ending. It seemed a little abrupt, especially the fairly cliched ending which was pretty disappointing considering all the great buildup, and the reason I very nearly took another half off my rating.
All in all, this is a fascinating modern homage to Dracula, Frankenstein, and other scifi/paranormal/Gothic classics, well-told with charismatic characters and an exciting plot.