The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

Posted On 21 December 2013

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The River of No Return is a novel about time travel and as such spends it’s time between two different period.  The story’s two main protagonists are Nicholas Falcott, Marquess of Blackdown and Julia Percy granddaughter to the Earl of Darchester.  At the start of the novel, Nicholas (or Nick, as he is primarily known throughout the book) finds himself becoming an unexpected Marquess following the accidental death of his father during a riding accident.  This new responsibility doesn’t really sit easily on Nick’s young shoulders and seemingly in an attempt at escaping his duties he joins the Napoleonic wars taking part at the time in Spain.  During the fighting Nick finds himself in a situation which will undoubtedly see him fall and at the point at which the killing blow is about to be meted out he finds himself boosted forward in time.

I really liked the concept for this novel.  Time travel.  Set between two different periods.  Historical content with a contemporary parallel storyline.  And, whilst I could probably take it or leave it, a bit of romance.  In reality I found it kind of disappointing, overly long and a bit difficult to complete.

To get back to the story.  Once Nick jumps forward to modern times we learn a bit more about the time travel involved.  I quite like that the author has come up with a new (at least to me) idea for why the people in the story travel through time.  Clearly the majority of people who jump forward are about to become a member of the recently deceased when they make the leap and so strong emotions seem to be the key factor.  As the story develops we learn that there are two different organisations whose members travel to and fro.  The Guild, who are the organisation who first pick up Nick when he jumps forward.  They basically school him in the ways of modern times, give him a stash of money and then send him out into the world.  I couldn’t help wondering how they could possibly monitor these jumps and I found the finer detail lacking a bit in that respect – which I confess niggled me.  The counter organisation are called the Ofan.  They’re more like the hippies of time travel as oppose to the ‘Men in Black’ type feel of the Guild and in fact the Guild believe the Ofan are damaging the time travel ‘river’.  Conversely the Ofan hold the same suspicions about the Guild.

Now, against all the previous teachings of the Guild it turns out that travellers can in fact go back into time and in a rather convoluted storyline about stopping the Ofan in their intrepid dealings the Guild ask Nick to travel back to his previous life (well about 3 years after his disappearance) and so we end up returning to Nick’s family home.

At the same time as the above we are also introduced to Julia who finds herself in a serious predicament since the demise of her Grandfather.  Her cousin has now become the rightful heir, he’s not really that nice a character and Julia is now rather at his beck and call.  Unfortunately, Eamon, the new Earl, suspects the late Earl could travel time and he believes he must have been using a talisman in order to do so.  He’s convinced that Julia knows of this talisman and he is determined to wring the information out of her – even if he risks her honour in the process!!

Of course Julia and Nick already knew each other from childhood and Nick is about to become her knight in shining armour.  Rescuing her from the boarish Eamonn and taking her and the rest of his family to reside in London – where he can carry out his real work on behalf of the Guild.

I have mixed feelings on this book.  It’s clearly very popular so I’m not sure why I didn’t like it more than I actually did.  I expected to really like it and in fact tried hard to do so!  But, it just didn’t really ever grab me.  Why?  Well, I think the characters were a little bit flat.  I didn’t particularly have any like or dislike for Nick.  He just seemed to be an incredibly, drop dead gorgeous, strapping young man, who everyone instantly liked, apparently because he’s easy on the eye (at least I think that’s the reason!).  I didn’t dislike Julia, in fact I quite liked her, I just think that she was born in the wrong time as the way she speaks, behaves and thinks seem to be more consistent with a 21st century modern young woman than those of a young girl from the period in which she lives.

The time travel was, as mentioned, a fairly original idea, but, and in spite of lots of discussion about how it all worked, it felt unrealised somehow.  I guess I was at first expecting something a little more scientific.  Plus, any story with time travel inevitably goes down the route of chicken and egg, which came first and how can these people just pop up here and there without damaging something of history along the way.  There are explanations about this of course but they never felt entirely convincing to me.

I think for me the biggest problem boils down to the length of this story.  It’s nothing to do with wanting a short read.  I enjoy a long story – so long as it has my attention and keeps it!  The River of No Return suffers from a smothering of words.  Perhaps if it had been shorter and kept a little more on track my attention would have stayed more focused and I wouldn’t have had time to form as many criticisms.  As it is, I thought the romance element was a little bland, the time travel not explained convincingly enough and the historical sections of the story felt like you could have been walking around in modern times apart from a few descriptions of clothing and the like.

Well, that does feel overly critical by my usual standards so I should probably just point out that I think this will undoubtedly appeal to many readers and in fact has already been thoroughly enjoyed by a good deal of people as reviews on Amazon and Goodreads demonstrate.  Clearly, I’m the odd one out.  So, if you fancy a little bit of a romance with some time travel and dashing Marquess’s galloping to the rescue of damsels in distress then this could be for you.


8 Responses to “The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway”

  1. Jen McDowell Mullen

    I didn’t care for it, but most people seem to love it. There is a difference between long because it is necessary and interesting — and long because the book wasn’t edited to the meat of the story. I continue to read time travel books, but I’m rarely satisfied with them. Tricky subject.

    • lynnsbooks

      I wondered whether there was something odd about me to be honest – such raving reviews. It’s not bad and I certainly didn’t hate it but for me it doesn’t fulfull it’s potential. I read a review that said inside there’s a good small book trying to get out – which I agree with. And also it feels like one of those books that just skims the surface of things.
      Lynn 😀
      Good luck with your time travel search!

  2. Your friendly librarian

    I’m glad to read your review. I also thought it was a really interesting and beautifully written novel with a lot of interesting concepts and potential, but I ended up putting it down so many times that I never finished it. As other reviewers said, it’s difficult to have so much cool plot and backstory and mechanics all work together. I’m glad to see that you also found a lot of merits in the story – really it’s quite interesting! – but that I’m not the only person who had a hard time with the length.

    • lynnsbooks

      To be honest I felt a bit mean with my review because it came across a bit negative. I didn’t hate the book or anything but it did feel a bit like hard work to finish!
      Lynn 😀

  3. Carl V. Anderson

    I read about the book just before it came out, thought it sounded great, and immediately ordered it from the library. When it came in I read a few pages and it wasn’t grabbing me, in part because by that time I was on to wanting to read something else. I’m sorry to hear it disappoints, especially given that time travel is one of my favorite tropes. That being said, I don’t gobble up every time travel novel. And with great TT novels like Asimov’s End of Eternity that I would like to re-read and Connie Willis’ time travel novels that I have yet to read, I won’t be moving this back onto my list any time soon.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, to be honest – I don’t think you would have ‘loved’ this one. I could be wrong but I’m just going to go on out on a limb anyway. It was just okay and not what I was expecting. I think it probably had ‘romance’ in the description somewhere which I’d overlooked and so it felt like a ‘love story’ with a time travel element thrown in for good measure to give it some historical content. I didn’t hate it but I don’t think I would necessarily recommend it either. I was hoping also it might have a little sci fi element for my sci fi event over at yours but didn’t really feel that I could submit it in the end as the sci fi was really not present – even by my standards!
      Lynn 😀

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