Shadow of the Savernake – Jayne Hackett (Review)

shadow of the savernake

Aborologist Florence Brock steps into the hollow of an ancient tree and awakes transported several hundred years into England’s past. Thrust into a land at war, where her skills count for nothing and her life even less, Florence has to forget everything she once knew and become something more. 
Her fate is entwined with Nat Haslet, a savvy and resourceful soldier marooned beyond his own time, desperate to get back home. Nat has learned what it is to survive in this broken land, doing what he must to stay alive.
Their incursion in the time-line alerts both friend and foe. There are those who would help them – The Taxanes – a secretive order as ancient as the trees themselves, who protect the time-line from ripples that were never meant to be. And there are those who would seek to use Florence’s knowledge for a far darker purpose, twisting history to their own malevolent ends.
Now, Florence and Nat must forge an understanding if they are to navigate the treachery of England’s lost and brutal past, before time itself runs out.”

The past in this story is most definitely brutal, but unlike a lot of fantasy while there are several obligatory historical rapes, we don’t have to read too much gory detail (perhaps because the author is a woman) , for which I was thankful. I was worried initially that this would be a knock-off of the Outlander/Cross-stitch series, but I’m pleased to report that this is not the case!

I enjoyed the story, and there were lots of hints that we were about to compare time in three different directions (the English civil war, Florence’s home time – basically nowadays – and Nat’s home time) but it never quite got off the ground. Meeting the occasional true historical character was interesting, and done with a light enough touch that the author then did not have to bend too much to change her story or the facts. It was also good to meet characters from a range of backgrounds – none of this historical hobnobbing with only the upper-classes; we meet villagers, clergymen, townsfolk, small gentry and soldiers, and the characters and their motivations are distinct and separate.  Although benevolent time-watchers (Taxanes) as well as malevolent are mentioned, don’t expect too much information about the Taxanes – the author is far more interested in the threat posed by other time travellers.

My main criticism of this book is that it needs proper editing. There was so much description (both descriptive passages and every noun had at least one adjective) that it really bogged down the action, and I was a good fifth of the way in before I felt engaged. There were also occasional silly errors – for example, the characters getting ready to set off early one morning, an event (you guessed it, rape attempt), and then immediately going to bed with no further action, as if the author had forgotten what was going on. I know it sounds small and picky, but once I started noticing these mistakes they kept coming.

The plot was exciting, with just enough mystery (we know who the baddies are, but quite how bad and in what way?) and there’s quite a bit of action. You do get frustrated with the characters’ misunderstandings (it happens over and over again), but eventually they sort it out. We are promised lots of information about trees, and although some of this is drip-fed through the book I wanted more! But then I’m quite information-driven, maybe other people would be happy with the little we get, just enough to whet the appetite. Nat (the male protagonist) is remarkably modern as to his morals and social mores, for a man who was born in 1955, I think exploring the similarities and differences of all three times would make this book more interesting still – perhaps in the sequel?


Buy it here.

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