Invictus, by Ryan Graudin, for Timeslip Tuesday

It seems to me there are in general two major types of time travel book--time travel as personal magical adventure, and time travel as a corporate endeavor, with multiple operatives, questionable motives, and tangled timelines (with many exceptions, but still).  If you read my blog regularly you can guess I prefer the former.  So Invictus, by Ryan Graudin (Little Brown YA Sept. 2017), isn't my personal cup of tea, but there were many things to like and you might well love it.

The main character, Farway Gaius McCarthy (aka Far) was born by a time traveler from the 2300s who fell in love with a Roman Gladiator and gave birth on the trip between times on her way home.  So Far's never had a real birthday, which caused minor glitchiness in his records.  He did well at time travel school, and was all set to follow in his mother's footsteps as a government time traveler...but then he fails his final exams (mysteriously) and ends up captaining a crew of three friends to hunt for lost treasures in the past to sell on the black market. Imogen, Far’s fun and quirky cousin is the historian; Gram (who is black), is the math genius, tetris addicted engineer, Priya (who's Indian) is Far's beloved and the medic.

On a heist mission back to the Titanic, Far meets Eliot, a strange girl who is also time travelling, whose  habits of clearly knowing too much and saying too little, and the fact that she's infiltrated herself via blackmail into the crew, make it almost impossible to trust her.  And she does indeed have secrets that makes trusting her more than a little risky.  She is on a mission of her own...because the fact that Far was born outside of time has caused bigger headaches than just his birthday glitch, threatening the existence of multiverses, and this has become her problem to solve.

Now it is a problem for Far and his friends as well.  Their past is endangered, their happy present as time-travelling young rouges totally gone to heck, and their future is a big question mark.  

What I really liked

--the crew is great; they had a fun bond and were an interesting group of people.  There is a bonus red panda on board as well.

--Eliot's mission, and the way it unfolds, provides a strong backbone of plot.

What I didn't much like

--my head hurt a bit trying to make sense of the swirl of multiverses and different pasts.  I strongly prefer single timelines.  This was almost too much for me.

 --I had trouble warming to Far, who's rather cocky, and this made it hard to get into the book, since it is quite Far-centric at first.  The crew, and Eliot, get more story time as the book progresses, and the story gets more interesting, so that wasn't a deal breaker.

--The actual time travel wasn't magical at all.  It was very down to earth, with no anthropological nuance to speak of.  So not particularly interesting to me.

Here's the Kirkus review, if you want a second opinion.


  1. A red panda, eh? That would be a bonus. This sounds like a lot of work. I think I will pass on this one. Thanks for the review.

  2. New Ryan Graudin???!!!!! Who cares what it's about; I'll read anything she writes! But I do actually like time travel as a corporate endeavour (have you ever read Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog? Utterly hilarious!), so I think this book is way up my alley!


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