If it's Tuesday, it's time travel in these parts (mostly). Today's book is a sequel to Dark Mirror, by M.J. Putney, which I reviewed back in August. In that book we met "the Irregulars," a group of young aristocrats from an alternate early 19th-century England in which magical talents are real, but considered an abominable taint in those of noble blood. Such young people are sent to a special institution for the eduction of the tainted...and there, despite the efforts of those in charge to squelch their magic, a group of students has banded together to practice their gifts, and, what is more, to use them to travel through through time to help Britain win World War II!!!!!
In Dark Passage (St. Martin's Griffin, 2011, YA, 320 pages) Troy, Cynthia, Justin and Jack head off again from the 19th century into war-torn France. Their mission--to rescue a scientist whose work Jack's premonitions have indicated will somehow avert a disater. But when Troy et al. arrive in the future, they are faced with an impregnable fortress, heavily guarded. Will their magical powers be enough to free not only one scientist, but all the prisoners held there?
And what will become of the forbidden love between Justin and Troy? Will he have to choose between the dukedom he loves, and stands to inherit, or his beloved? And what of Cynthia, proud and acid-tongued? Will she be able to set aside her bitterness and snobbish mindset, and acknowledge her feelings for Jack?
Romance, time travel, magical abilities, and World War II adventure combine to make this a fun read. I was especially pleased by the parts of the book that involved Cynthia--it's more fun (for me at any rate) to watch a difficult personality changing then it is to watch two people obsessed with their forbidden, passionate love. The adventure was just fine; it moved a nice pace and was plausible enough (allowing for the magic brought to bare on the situation) for it to convince, more or less. It was never all that tense, because it was pretty clear they would all rescue each other, but it gave the characters something to do.
I continued to be bothered by the anachronistic choice of names (Troy and Justin sound so 1980s to me), but it can't be helped, and since I knew I'd be bothered by it, I was able to ignore it. We don't get much sense of WW II France, or England, here, so the time travel falls into the "impetus for adventure" category, rather than the "chance to describe character's reactions to a different time" one.
I preferred the first book, simply because I enjoy learning about things for the first time more than revisiting them, and because I liked the school setting that was more prominently featured there. This is another reason why I liked Cynthia's story line best in Dark Passage- it had a nice thread of unpleasant school-girl becoming reformed character to it, that I, a fan of the British school girl genre, appreciated lots.
The third book, Dark Destiny, comes out next August--I'll most definitely be reading it!