Review for “Marking Time” (Book 1 – The Immortal Descendants) by April White

A couple of points to start out here:

I have read all four books (so far) in The Immortal Descendants series, and will be posting reviews for the other four books as soon as I can.

I also want to give anyone reading a heads-up… I will try to keep these reviews spoiler-free for those that are bothered by it (I don’t happen to be one of those people), but I can’t make any concrete promises. Quite frankly, my reviews tend to be pretty detailed, and taking note of some specific reasons why I liked the book so much are kind of necessary for me.

To say that I absolutely love these books is something of an understatement. The last time I was so invested in a series of books was about ten years ago when I accidentally discovered Tara Janzen’s (Glenna McReynolds) Chalice series. I was so in to those books, I actually adapted the first book into a screenplay and sent it to her. Incidentally, she was really cool about it, read it and even gave me some great feedback on my writing that I’ve continued to use to this day.

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Okay… Marking Time… here we go…

I picked up this book because A) author Elizabeth Hunter was recommending the fourth book, Waging War, when it debuted a couple months ago; and B) because it was free. I started reading it and was completely blown away! From the minute the story opens, right in those first few pages, I was drawn into the world that April White has created, and I never wanted to go back.

Saira Elian has lived her seventeen-plus years like a gypsy. She and her mother, Claire, have moved every couple of years since Saira was a small child, and the friendless girl has occupied her life with solitary activities, tagging in tunnels under the city and practicing free running/ parkour as well. I loved this aspect of Saira’s character… While many girls/ women do parkour/ free running, it is more associated with guys, so her engaging in it actually told me a lot about her personality right from the start.

The catalyzing event happens right away… Saira’s mother goes missing, and Saira is whisked away to the family’s ancestral home just outside London, England. Saira’s absentee grandmother, Millicent, tries to rule with an iron hand, but Saira is having none of it and does what she’s best at… escape.

Saira soon finds herself being pursued by a group of nefarious dudes, as well as encountering a handsome and mysterious young man in an Aston Martin. She escapes into the Tube, landing at Whitechapel Station… in the late 1800s. Here she encounters Jack the Ripper, a familiar face from the future… and her mother.

The characters in this book are definitely not cookie-cutter! The minor characters, nearly all of which are connected to the school where Saira is sent, are all well-drawn, interesting, and well-developed. The circle of friends that Saira acquires there are all unique, funny, fascinating, and important. No characters here just to fill space… Everybody has a purpose. The teachers at the school are also very appealing, especially Mr. Shaw and Miss Simpson.

If you’ve every read my blog, you know about how I feel about Archer. From the minute he drives into the story in his silver Aston Martin, through the time we spend with him in the past, he captures your heart. Ms. White has taken a standard paranormal/ fantasy character types and made him so well-balanced, so dynamic, that you almost forget what he is.

As for Saira, I found her to be one of the most charming, refreshing and engaging female characters I’ve read in a long time. She doesn’t suffer fools easily, doesn’t need rescuing, is flawed and funny… Some might find her acceptance of her new life a bit pat, but I think it would be a mistake to judge her in that way. Like a real person, Saira doesn’t always say or do the right thing, doesn’t always make good choices, but her loyalty and love for her mom and the new family of friends in the present and past help her to learn to open her heart to the prospect of not being alone any more. You feel with Saira… her frustration with her mother and those around her as they reluctantly share information with her is palpable… her struggles with adjusting to having friends and faculty who value her presence and care about her is uncomfortable at first… and her relationship with Archer is real and rewarding.

The quality of the writing in this book was, to me, outstanding. Fast-paced and incredibly visual, I loved the author’s technical style and easy dialogue. The text was very well-researched, but the descriptions and background information is fed to you in an engaging way, never overwhelming, whether it is historical or scientific. The time travel element is handled very well, and the author use headings as well as characters reflecting on their surroundings to easy you into the changes smoothly. All the relationships in the book were written very well. I like the way the friendships between male and female students were handled, with very realistic banter and even slightly sexual subtext that most readers will identify with readily. The romantic aspect was also handled very well… Naturally, Saira is only seventeen when this series begins, so it has to be clean, but the author manages to build a wonderful, slow burning romance between Saira and Archer that has incredible emotion and intensity.

When I reviewed screenplays, one of the categories for review was “Cinematic Quality”, and boy does this book have it! As I read it, page after page, I kept thinking, “Someone make this, please!!!” According to her bio, author April White used to be a film producer, so it really comes as no surprise that the story “looks” so good. Having read the other three books following this one, I’d have to say that the series would be better served on television (one book covered each “season”, maybe 8 episodes each) … There’s so much goodness in this book, and the others, that a movie simply wouldn’t do them justice.

So there you have it… “Marking Time” is an incredible debut work! A solid plotline, with plenty of bread crumbs to lead you on into the series; memorable characters; snappy dialogue; well-crafted relationships; a unique mythology; smart historical reference and scientific background info… It’s all here!

A solid five stars!

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