Magic, Curses, High School Bullies, Medieval THOTS, and a Romance that has followed me for the last 20 years... This book has it ALL!
Disclaimer: This is a re-read, I first read this book in middle school nearly 20 years ago and I read it so many times after that my copy was falling apart at the spine. It was one of the books that inspired me to become an author in my own right. It's been more than 10 years since I read this book at least and I picked up a n
ew copy to re-read it and see if it still held up as so many of my childhood favorites haven't aged well. This one, however, delighted me.
On second read I hate to admit this narrative is distinctly more telling than showing, but the nostalgia of the re-read led me to overlook that even though its normally a pet peeve of mine as a reader. And there is a large cast of characters that lend themselves to turning into stereotypes at times since half of this book is set in present day and the other half in the 12th century so none of the side characters really had a chance to be developed too far beyond archetypes.
One exception to this was Mr. Garrett, the school science teacher, who as an adult I felt for SO MUCH MORE deeply than I did as a kid. He has a terrible backstory and it doesn't go much further than that, but it informs his (at times) clueless decision making abilities and makes his very small role much more believable.
There were a ton of topics that were touched on in this novel, though only a couple of them had full resolution. Things like suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, child abandonment, infant loss, implied rape, domestic abuse, and more. While I always appreciate a book with more going on under the surface, I have to shallowly admit that I wish there'd been more... heat in the romance department considering all of the other topics that were being broached. I mean, if we can talk about suicide... can't we get more kissing scenes?
Speaking of which, the one kissing scene we DO get in the tower I remember as being the first *steamy* scene I ever read in a book. To my adolescent mind it was scandalous and heart pounding but reading it again as an adult... I could've done with a little more heat. LOL! That is, however, my selfish hopelessly romantic heart talking.
The thing about this book is that it's written so wonderfully, the world-building is believable and immersive, it has universal themes that make you root for these characters, and the tension is palpable between the two characters. They fight about a very real fundamental difference in belief systems, things that would be a true barrier between people who are attracted to one another. Not some contrived issues that get resolved through a series of high school shenanigans. It's not an easy resolution for them to come together. They both have to change, a lot, and they do. This story has so much heart and it definitely held up in my opinion. I give it a whole-hearted five stars.
The real tragedy of this book is that there aren't more of them. There were so many questions I still had left buzzing in my head by the end of the story. So many things I wanted to learn about this world and the characters in it. Perhaps that's one reason I keep coming back to it?
I want to know how things worked out for Jarrod and Kate. They're in High School after all and Kate is going to have to navigate new waters, being in the spotlight by being with Jarrod instead of scornfully dismissing her classmates. Jarrod is going to have to cope with his newfound power, newfound belief in magic... something that defied all logic to him before his trip to the past, and will he be able to let go of the past completely? My thoughts, probably not, especially considering it was where he came into his own- a pivotal point for a boy becoming a man and defining who he's going to be in life. Will their burgeoning new love be able to survive the rigors of high school and growing up or will they grow apart?
Personally, I'd love to see a sequel novel from Marianne Curley where the characters have grown up and are adults now. Having finished college only a year or two before and Kate finds herself needing to discover more about her past, who her father is, if he has magic too? But the only way to really know for sure, is to go back to the past... HER past and discover it for herself. I'd like to see her look up Jarrod all these years later and see how they end up together for real, as adults, as practicers of magic.
And then there is the question of Rhauk's legacy. It's hypothesized in the book that Jarrod may have been descended from Rhauk's illegitimate rape baby with Eloise, but never confirmed. It would be reeealllllyyyy cool to see if perhaps Jarrod was descended from baby John, Lord Richard's youngest son and if there could be a distant relative of his with Rhauk's evil powers. The potential for more is overwhelming and really sets my imagination on fire. I think it's the best compliment I could give this book. That here I am, twenty years later, wanting more.
A classic tale that I would recommend to anyone who likes time-travel, romance, and fantasy.