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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Review: The Immortals, S.E. Lister

I was incredibly excited when Sophie asked me if I would like to read and review the novel ahead of its September released. I absolutely loved her debut, Hideous Creatures, available here:

So, The Immortals. The protagonist, Rosa Hyde, is the daughter of a time-traveller - she and her family are stuck in 1945, forced to relive that year over and over again. As she grows older, she longs for something more, even if it means breaking away from her family.

Eventually, she manages to do just that and her first taste of a new time takes place in our very own. Equally fascinated and terrified, she spends a great deal of time in London before slipping away to a previous century. Here she meets Tommy Rust, a veteran of time travel, who shows her the ropes. They slip in between decades and centuries, sometimes together, sometimes separately. Their journeys are vast and breathtaking, but eventually they take their toll, no matter what Tommy thinks, certain of their immortality.

The premise of the story is bold and ambitious, and it does not fall short of the mark. The journeys Rosa and her fellow time travellers undertake are as complex and rich as the characters themselves. One minute, you're in a feasting hall watching Rosa teaching her hosts about the wonders of the future, and next you're at the beginning of the world, freezing and desolate, thinking about life and what it all means.

There are so many layers to this story that S. E. Lister weaves in so effortlessly it's almost unfair. The yearning to belong somewhere, with someone, while wrestling to be free. The fun and fanfare of fabulous riches and adoration while you wonder if there is more to life. The difficulty of facing your own mortality. In Rosa and Tommy's case, this becomes far more painful when they've lived their life on a plane far different from others'.

The novel is awash with beautiful descriptions and strong settings of place, so even when it's time to move on to the next destination the reader has a keen sense of what has been left behind, sometimes mourning for it like Rosa does. I had no idea how a novel like this could possibly end, but Lister handles it brilliantly. It's a fitting close for a story that dared to do and show so much.

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