Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift

Title: Paris Adrift
Author: E. J. Swift
Release date: February 2018
Publisher: Rebellion
Genre: Science-fiction/fantasy
Source: Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

Description: Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge.

Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris.

Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self. 

My thoughts: I first noticed this book because of the cover, and when I read the description I thought it sounded like the sort of thing I would enjoy. I pictured a fairly typical urban fantasy novel, where a main character discovers there's actually magic of some kind in the world, and with the cool setting of Paris as a bonus. In fact, it's not that sort of story at all. In the opening pages, you learn that this book is about time travel. In the not-too-distant future, the world is ending, and a group of time travellers think they've identified some key points in history where events could be steered a different way, with the help of a young woman who doesn't yet know that she's also a time traveller: Hallie.

Jump back to present day Paris, and Hallie is recently arrived in the city. In many ways, this is a contemporary novel about figuring out who you want to be, and dealing with things from your past. Hallie has basically run away from home instead of starting university. Her job at a popular bar brings her into a friend group of other people who have left something, are looking for something, or just want to have fun and not think about anything for a while. They are racially and culturally diverse, but again and again you see that they have so much in common despite their varied backgrounds.

The other aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed was that it brings in real-world politics. The bar staff in Summer 2018 are discussing the US president, the refugee crisis, racism. As Halliee starts to visit different periods of time, she sees the effects of different political strategies played out: people starving in the wake of the siege of Paris; occupied Paris during the Second World War; 2040 when tensions between a peaceful party and a fascist one are coming to a head. It seeps quietly in to the story, not overpowering it, but becoming a central part of the book.

Paris Adrift is a fun, clever and moving book, and I definitely recommend it. It's particularly good if you don't usually like fantasy. I love that Hallie evolves over the course of the story, as do many of the staff she works with. My one little niggle about the book is that there are some tiny set up details about how the time travel works which seemed like they were going to be bigger in the story - like they're setting up a series, rather than a single book. It makes me wonder if this is the start of a series, although the book very much wrapped up tidily. Overall, I'm giving Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift 8 out of 10.


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