About The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
For fans of The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and David Mitchell, a genre bending, time twisting alternative history that asks whether it’s worth changing the past to save the future, even if it costs you everyone you’ve ever loved.
Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English—instead of French—the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself.
Review of The Kingdoms
The Kingdoms is one of the most original time travel books that I have read. The story is intricate, utterly fascinating and impossible to put down.
A combination of intentional and unintentional time travel moves the plot back and forth in time. Chapter headings help the reader keep track of when. The story begins in an England that lost at the Battle at Trafalgar where the French occupy the land.
The main character, Joe, is out of place and time no matter what timeline he is in. From the time he steps off a train with no memories of who he is, Joe constantly searches for his identity. The search takes him back and forth in time, and through England and Scotland. While Joe is not the only time traveller, he does seem to be the lynch pin to the story. His actions influence those around him which, in turn, influence events that may or may not change the future.
In his search, Joe receives a postcard mailed 93 years ago, sign by ‘M’. Searching for ‘M’, leads Joe to the past where he is held captive in order to provide the English navy with technology from the future to help them defeat the French. Since Joe has a daughter in the future, he is keen to return and does not want to cooperate. However, interacting with the soldiers, Joe begins to develop relationships with his captors. The constant desire to go home conflicts with his empathy with the English cause.
There is a subtle, slow-burn romance underlying the mixed up time line plot. The relationship, that may seem to be just an aside, will be critical to the story.
The Kingdoms is rich in historical detail, actual and altered, including an occupied England and a wartime Scotland. Warfare on the sea adds to the vibrant atmosphere. Sharp characters with complex relationships breath life into this amazing tale.
Thanks to the publisher who provided a copy through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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