“Hamartia” by Raquel Rich

This book has a nice basic premise; in a future world of reincarnation, it seems that the universe has run out of souls. People  — many people — are dying because their souls expire. Grace is offered the chance to save her dying son by travelling back in time and stealing him a soul. The catch, she finds out, is that the soul comes from her ex-husband, about whom she still has mixed feelings. This intertwining of external and internal conflicts gives the plot a good basis to start from. The conflict, whether to possibly sacrifice her estranged husband to save her son, is one basic to human nature and keeps us sympathetic throughout.

The strength of this book is in the plot. It rolls along in a straightforward manner until we think it’s time to finish, and then the sidetracks and twists start kicking in, and suddenly we’re interested all over.

It’s a good trick in a Time Travel book to mix up the travelling so much that nobody can keep track of what’s happening. That way you don’t get hung up on the “time travel paradox” which authors mention as if they’ve solved it, and they never have.

By the time this book is over, I’ve lost track of who is where in time, and I don’t mind, because I’m too interested in finding out what happens. Which is sort of the object of the whole novel-writing exercise, don’t you think?

For me, the weakness of the writing is in the incredible detail of the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Some people find this interesting. I feel it gets in the way of the story. For example, at one spot late in the book, a whole page is spent bouncing light around the room from a shiny spoon. Nothing else happens, except in the head of the main character. Not a good situation at a point where we want the plot to pick up speed, heading for the climax.

A small point of contention is the title. I’m not sure Grace is put in a position where she exhibits harmartia, the fatal flaw, usually involving an overwhelming ego that places the tragic hero against society. I don’t find her tragic at all, or particularly egotistical. I like her much more than that. But an academic quibble doesn’t destroy my enjoyment of the book.

Recommended for Time Travel fans and those who appreciate in-depth character portrayal.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



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