Stars: 4 out of 5.
I don’t read a lot of time travel stories. Usually because the science of it makes my head hurt, or because the complete lack of scientific backing or inner logic makes my brain hurt. Plus, I usually can’t get over the time paradox that a lot of these stories create. Like, if the character went into the past to save his sister/lover/parent, wouldn’t that person be alive in the new present, thus negating their need to go into the past and change things? Brain explodes.
But I’m happy to announce that we don’t have as many time traveling shenanigans here, so I could enjoy this book without giving myself a migraine. We have more of a case of people existing outside of time, or being Unstuck. And that’s a wonderfully interesting concept that I haven’t see in books before. I liked the narrative possibilities it opened. Being Unstuck is not a boon. In fact, most people who reach the third stage of being Unstuck fall into a coma, their mind lost in time, disconnected from their body and the “present”. This adds an additional danger to the already dangerous situation our protagonist finds herself in.
Speaking of protagonists. January is a hard cookie to crack. She is far from being a nice person. She is abrasive and rude to everyone around her. She lashes out at everyone who tries to help her out or even try to be nice at her. She is like a wounded dog that bites the hand that tries to pet him. It’s hard to empathize with such an abrasive character… and it’s a real feat that the author actually makes you empathize with her in the end.
January is a major b to everyone around her and so clearly miserable with her job, with the hotel, with her life in general, to the point that nobody understands why she stays there. She has enough years on the job to retire comfortably. In fact, retiring and getting away from the time port is the best thing she can do, since being so close to it slowly worsens her condition. So why does she stay? By slowly uncovering her reasons for staying, the author explains why she is so abrasive to everyone. And makes the reader care for her in the process.
It also helps that she genuinely cares about the hotel and the people who work there, even if she doesn’t know how to show her affection to them. So she fights tooth and nail to keep them safe. To neutralize the threat she uncovers. And she grieves for those she is unable to save. January is flawed, even broken, but she isn’t a bad person.
And the other characters are just as interesting and eclectic. I really enjoyed getting to know them. They felt real. I would have loved to discover more of their backstories. What brought them to Paradox Hotel? Why are they staying? It’s not like they are treated well or that the pay is exceptional… yet all of them stay. It says a lot about the author’s mastery of their world that each supporting character could have been the protagonist of their own story, and I would have been there for the ride.
My only complaint is the villains’ motivation. I’m still not sure what the end game was here, for either of those people. They already went back in time and made one of them filthy rich. What else did they want to accomplish? What’s the ultimate end goal? Since that’s never really explained, it lessens the impact of the book, in my opinion.
But that’s a small gripe. I loved this story a lot more than I expected, and I’m not a fan of time travel stories. So for those who love them, this is a must read!
PS: I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.