Beth Bernobich’s The Time Roads is a volume of alternate history. Rather than our familiar history with it’s English domination, the Ireland and the Irish Empire have grown to dominate Western Europe. In many ways, this feels familiar to readers, but the subtle cultural differences, specifically the cultural dominance of Christianity and patriarchy are subtly pushed to the side by this thoroughly modern author. This volume is not exactly a novel, and not exactly a collect of short stories. Instead, it is four intertwined stories, somewhere between short story and novella length. Each of these tales stand alone, and has a complete beginning, middle, and end, but they share overlapping characters, and the four stories together, also have a larger story arc.
Bernobich takes on the modern trend of steampunk, without overdoing it. The author uses the technology to accentuate the story and characters, without letting her story being driven by the cool factor of the technology. The machinery is steam powered, balloons are the primary form of transportation, airplanes are somewhat suspiciously regarded as untrustworthy new invention, but the reader isn’t hit over the head with how “retro” all of the technology is. Instead, the stories are deeply invested in interesting, well-drawn characters, and the interactions of these characters are the primary driver of the stories. The format of this book with it’s intertwining novellas won’t be for everyone, and even at the end of the book, not all questions are answered, but for readers who are looking for the modern trends done well, Beth Bernobich’s The Time Roads is a great example.
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