Warped, by Maurissa Guibord (Delacorte Press, January 11, 2011, YA, 352 pages), for Timeslip Tuesday.
When I was young, back in the 1980s (sigh) there weren't any romantic time-travel books specifically for teenagers (I think). However, that seems to be changing...and so a new sub-sub-genre emerges, the Romance Time Travel, of which Warped is a fine example (other recent examples being Prada and Prejudice, and Along the River, and I have two more in my tbr pile that I think will qualify).
This is one of those books that is impossible to review without spoilers... So, if you would like a fun time-travel fantasy romance, that keeps the reader entertained, but stretches credulity somewhat, you could just stop reading now and get the book (when it comes out next week).
Or you could keep reading.
Tessa Brody wasn't enjoying spending her evening attending an auction with her book-seller father...but the last lot of books included a unicorn tapestry that seemed to call to her. Pre-empting her father, she makes the high bid...and the tapestry is hers. It will change her life.
When Tessa touches the threads, she finds herself living the life of a Renaissance peasant girl--not just any girl, but the virgin who is to be the bait to lure a unicorn. But the unicorn is really a handsome nobleman, William de Chaucy, enchanted by a wicked witch who has torn the thread of life from him, and from six others as well. Once the unicorn is captured, he will be woven into the place of honor at the center of her tapestry--and his life force will be used by the witch to keep herself young forever.
But back in the present, Tessa is the new owner of the enchanted tapestry. When she plucks a loose thread from it, she releases William...and now she has an ex-unicorn Renaissance lord in her bedroom, with an evil witch determined to get him back. To make matters worse, the Norns (the goddesses of in charge of the threads of life and the fate of ever human ever born) are furious at the disruption the witch has caused to their weaving, and they think Tessa is responsible. And the Fates don't take kindly to meddlers.. Everything, and every one (including William) who Tessa loves could be doomed unless she returns the seven stolen threads of life from the tapestry to the Norns. Which the witch, of course, is dead set against...
It might seem like a complicated plot, but Guibord keeps things moving briskly and reasonably. Many questions arise for which Tessa (and the reader) have no answers for, but all (mostly) becomes clear, and Guibord strikes a nice balance between rushing toward explanations and keeping the reader in suspense. Her characterization of Tessa appealed to me lots (artistic, insecure, sometimes sarcastic), and my favorite parts of the book were those set in real life, with Tessa and her best friend Opal trying to figure out what the heck was happening, with lots of snappy dialogue. My one real issue, plot-wise, was with the Norns--for Powerful Goddesses of Fate they were surprisingly ineffective, and downright wrong viz identifying the culprit behind the lost threads. I wasn't convinced by them.
Within the action and danger of the swirling plot, the romance between Tessa and William flowers. It's a relationship strained both by the issue of looming mortal peril, but also by Tessa's role in the unicorn hunt. William isn't sure he can trust her, and makes this clear...but the overwhelming power of their mutual attraction triumphs in the end. It's more than a bit fairy-tale like, but that's part of the fun, except that I would have liked William better if, instead of getting all huffy and distrustful periodically, he had clarified his issues and given Tessa a chance to tell her side of the story. So not my personal favorite teen romance, although I grant him a certain hotness (and I think teen readers will find him even hotter!).
In short, despite my two issues (the Norns and lack of trust business), I enjoyed this one, and the pages turned briskly. Guibord took an interesting and entertaining premise, and delivered a fun read. This is her first novel--I'll be looking forward to more from her.
Time travel-wise--William is a time traveller from the Renaissance to our present, and although his experience as such isn't central to the plot, it does enliven things, in the fairly standard delighted-wonder-of-person-from-the-past way (pizza! electricity! asphalt!). Tessa's brief dream-like travel to the past doesn't really count as real time travel--she was living someone else's life. I think this will appeal more directly to those who want fantasy romance, rather than hard-core aficionados of Time Travel, which is just fine.
(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)