Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on April 11th 2017
Series: Into the Dim #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Time Travel
"Instantly engaging, constantly suspenseful, ultimately poignant and satisfying. Loved it!"--Diana Gabaldon, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Outlander series
When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. And she's alive, though currently trapped in the twelfth century, during the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Passing through the Dim, Hope enters a brutal medieval world of political intrigue, danger, and violence. A place where any serious interference could alter the very course of history. And when she meets a boy whose face is impossibly familiar, she must decide between her mission and her heart—both of which could leave Hope trapped in the past forever.
When I started Into the Dim, I was expecting a time travel book that, due to the nature of being a time travel book, would have bits of historical fiction included. What I got was a historical fiction novel, with only little bits of poorly explained time travel and a somewhat meandering plot. I’m going back and forth on what I want to rate this one because there were some parts that were beautifully executed. However, there were also some major flaws that detracted from my ability to engage with and enjoy the story.
The first third of the novel was extremely difficult for me to get through. I put it down multiple times because I was bored. It started off more as a contemporary YA novel than anything else. The main character, Hope, was a special snowflake who seemed to have been wronged by everyone. I understand that part of her behavior was in regard to losing her mother but her actions made it very difficult to connect with her. The only thing that I liked about her was that she had an eidetic memory. Additionally, the introduction to time travel took quite a while to arrive (as in almost 100 pages). After finishing the book, I still couldn’t tell you quite how the time travel works, it seems to be an odd blend of magic and technology.
Once Hope, Phoebe, and Collin travel to the twelfth century, the book begins finds its groove, although the plot does still meander sometimes. The last two thirds of the book were a fun, adventure-filled escapade into the past. There was love, royalty, intrigue, and betrayals. However, I lost sight of the plot at times because there were so many different stories occurring at once. I liked the inclusion of Rachel. Had more page space been devoted to expanding the ideas in her story about religious persecution, it would have been wonderful. But there just wasn’t enough time spent on any of the subplots so they were more distracting than anything else. At times it felt as if this novel wanted to grow into an Outlander-esque behemoth, delving deeply into each of the issues it brought up. I think the development of the story the author wanted to tell was limited by the fact that it is a young adult novel.
That being said, many of the historical secondary characters were very well-developed and interesting. Eleanor of Acquitaine was a fascinating monarch and I enjoyed seeing her brought to life. Most of the contemporary secondary characters weren’t quite as well done though. I was very confused regarding the villain, she barely appears in the plot and isn’t developed very much. Phoebe and Collum were interesting but once they traveled with Hope into the past, they seemed to lose themselves. Phoebe was relegated to the background while Collum’s main purpose seemed to be glowering and attempting stupid stunts. I didn’t understand many of the main character’s actions in the past, they seemed more aimed at advancing the plot than staying true to the character’s personality. The love interest was a case of insta-love that got intense very fast, but later events helped me understand it. Hopefully it will be developed more in book two.
The last fourth of the book flew by and at least partially redeemed it in my eyes. Into the Dim wasn’t a great series opener, I felt as if it had too much going on to fully develop anything. However, I’ll be continuing with the series because I feel it has potential. If the second book continues in the same vein as the last portion of this one, I think it could be good.