I have loved modern-people- displaced-in-time stories since I read Twain’s “Connecticut Yankees in King Arthur’s Court,” and suspension of disbelief is key. Also a certainty that while individual up-time people are smarter than individual down-time people, a lot of those smarts come from a gradual build-up of information discovered by *drum-roll* down-time people. A good time-travel book is going to acknowledge that, and the 16xx series certainly does.
So. A book about high finance. There’s going to be lots of boy-girl goings on to make it interesting, right? Right. And countries spying on each other, and Down-timers who hate the Up-timers, and Up-timers who hate the Down-timers.
This book actually starts off in 1634, and shout-outs to the other books in the series are either really annoying or a nod to continuity, depending on your preference. The titular Waltz takes place at the end, to a background of plots and murder.
If you don’t already love the series, this is an awful place to start. If you do love the series, read it for completeness. The financial wheeling and dealing is barely believable, and the romance is worse. The wand-waving solution to the financial crises is possibly believable within the series, but I had a really hard time accepting that a king would do that. Then there are the wealthy Barbies, girls ranging from 15-25. (And a waitress is described as 10 years older than the Barbies – which makes her from 25-35? How did she do that?) One is a down-timer, and one up-timer is more of a tag-along than a Barbie. They all pick up boyfriends and seem to be on the marriage track, whether they were interested in marriage or not, because that’s what girls do, right? Marry. The wealth/status differences between the girls and the boys make for some interesting conversations, though.
The cover with its Race Today! Banner is a tad misleading. Yes, there are cars in Ye Ancient Worlde, so someone who never picked up this series before will have an idea that this is a time-travel book. Sure, the Emperor wants a car, and the mechanics are building a race-track, and they’re going to someday hold the Vienna 500 here. But… there’s one car racing itself. I waited and waited for the two car race through the streets, and it never showed up. I was disappointed.
I wasn’t sure who everyone was, so I was happy for the Cast of Characters in the back. That is, until I read it. This is a book about High Finance, right? So….
*‘Anna, serving girl, buys a bra’ might be relevant, if a bit titillating.
*‘Roth, Morris advisor to King’ is informational.
*‘Roth, Judith wife of Morris’ kind of leaves out the fact that she becomes Head of the National Bank of Bohemia. That’s pretty important, in a book about High Finance. And it’s not as if the writers wanted to leave out spoilerific information, since ‘buys a bra’ takes place many chapters later.
*’Sanderlen, Gayleen wife of Ron’ also leaves out the fact that she becomes CEO of the investment company which is the most important factors of the book. How was this left out?
*’Forney, Dana, wife of Sonny’ is the co-CEO of the investment company. Somehow this is also not relevant.
*’Ron’ & ‘Sonny’, by the way, are listed as mechanics and not ‘husband of’ Gayleen & Dana.
None of the men are listed as ‘husband of’, even when the estranged marriage is an important plot point.
With all the fuss that the series and this book in particular makes about Up-time Attitudes about women’s emancipation, this Cast of Characters listing is disappointing.