Review: The Map Across Time

This second book in C.S. Lakin’s “The Gates of Heaven” series follows The Wolf of Tebron with an adventure tale that echoes the tone and tropes of many a classic fairy tale—with a lot of ancient Hebrew and a little Dr. Who thrown in for good measure.

The kingdom of Sherbourne is under a curse. Its broken walls, crumbling since the days of the ancient battle for which they were first built, are an appropriate symbol for what is happening on the inside: the queen is dead, withered away by a mysterious sickness, the king is going mad with greed, and a group of whispering, plotting counselors is taking over.

Adin and Aletha, the twin children of the king, feel powerless to stop what is happening. Aletha is beautiful and passionate, but though she attends meetings of the city council and tries to influence the king’s policies, she has no real voice. Adin, the heir, is marred by a hunched back, a bum leg, and a twisted face—and his father hates him.

Eighteen years of age, the twins’ devotion to each other is all that gives them hope and life—that, and a strange memory of a man who told them, on the eve of their mother’s death, that she wasn’t really dead . . .

When a man stumbles into the king’s path claiming to have been blinded by the beauty and brilliance of the mythical firebird, the king is so obsessed with claiming the creature that he promises Aletha’s hand in marriage to anyone who can capture it. Horrified, Adin sets out to find the firebird himself and so save his adored twin from a fate probably worse than death. But an encounter with a talking pig named Winston and a mysterious, long-haired hermit set him on a very different path—

Through time.

The curse, as his anachronistic nurse Reya has long told him, is real. It began centuries before during the reign of the first Regent of Sherbourne. And only Adin, armed with a painted map that will take him through time and a heart that longs to prove himself, can stop the curse from playing out to its final, destructive end.

The Map Across Time is a fairy tale through and through. The talking pig (in a land where all other animals stay silent, thank you very much), the beautiful princess, the good-hearted but despised son (he’s not a “younger son,” but certainly in spirit he is), the nursemaid who is more than she seems to be—all these elements root this story firmly in the genre of all those stories I read in Classics Illustrated as a little kid. It also has biblical roots, of a sort: the “old language” spoken by the nursemaid and the early inhabitants of Sherbourne is Hebrew, and concepts of sin, atonement, and above all, providence are very much present.

(That’s not to say this is an allegory. There is no straight allegory here; if there was, I would call it problematic, for various reasons. The themes are Christian but don’t have to be—they could easily be made to fit other worldviews. I found this to be true in Wolf of Tebron as well.)

C.S. Lakin’s writing is lyrical, although I found this book lacked some of the beauty of The Wolf of Tebron. The use of Hebrew words struck me as distracting at times, taking away from the narrative rhythm. Still, the story is faster paced than Wolf, and the characters are immediately sympathetic. The climax unfolds with an almost luxurious slowness, but is incredibly satisfying—and fascinating—to watch.

Oh—and once again, the cover art is gorgeous.

I continue to enjoy this series and look forward to the next installment.







3 responses to “Review: The Map Across Time”

  1. […] been reviewing her Gates of Heaven fantasy series since it began coming out. (Reviews here and here and here and […]

  2. Rachel Starr Thomson Avatar

    Both books in this series have had fantastic covers. The stories are really worth reading as well.

  3. Elisabeth Avatar

    I LOVE the cover art – it’s gorgeous!!! Definitely one of my favourite book covers I’ve seen in a long time! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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