Thieves’ World editor Lynn Abbey recently has begun to explore an interesting concept: the blending of witchcraft and time travel. This idea debuted in the novel Out of Time, and Abbey now continues the story in her latest, Behind Time.
Emma Merrigan spends her days working in a library, but her nights are devoted to walking the Netherlands–the spirit realm–looking for curses. They’re something like demons, and Emma inherited the ability to hunt and kill them from her mother, Eleanor. But as the novel opens, Eleanor lies comatose, the victim of an attack by a pack of curses. She is now in danger of becoming a rogue–a creature with powers beyond mere curses–unless her daughter can locate and reclaim her soul.
Emma is aided by another Netherlands dweller, a man named Blaise Raponde. Although dead for many centuries, Raponde has existed in the Netherlands, hunting curses in spirit form. He has vowed to find Eleanor’s soul before it’s too late, but Emma isn’t sure whether to trust him; he actually might be a rogue, helping Emma only to betray her in the end. Emma therefore must find the strength to walk the Netherlands on her own, and find her mother’s soul before disaster strikes.
It’s an interesting concept, mixing spirituality with time travel, witchcraft with inter-dimensional movement. It works, in part because the main character is strong and yet fairly unassuming. Emma seems like someone you could easily miss in a crowd, and yet Abbey gives her an aura of stability that makes her power credible. She hangs back a bit and lets the setting speak for itself, and the starkness of the Netherlands becomes all the more frightening.
This novel is a good continuation to an original starting place. Behind Time pushes the boundaries, but isn’t so heavy that it can’t be understood. I hope Abbey pursues this series into further books.
This review originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on September 20, 2011.