A Crown in Time

Written by Jennifer Macaire
Review by Edward James

Time travellers abound in historical fiction for children and young adults but appear less often in HF for more mature readers. Most authors of adult HF are uncomfortable in mixing authenticity and fantasy. Attracted to the wonder and difference of the past, they seek to see it through the eyes of contemporaries who find it unremarkable.

Jennifer Macaire is quite comfortable in mixing authenticity and fantasy. She even manages to make the act of time travel seem authentic: a nasty and dangerous experience like a major operation, with unpleasant after-effects. Isobel, the narrator of A Crown in Time, is a convicted criminal from the Third Millennium who is sent back to 13th-century France on a suicide mission, suicidal in the sense that she can never return to her own era. Like the heroine of any historical novel, she is free to do as she likes except transgress recorded history. If she does she is ‘erased’. Her mission is to correct a transgression made by a previous time traveller.

Macaire is scrupulously authentic when describing life in 13th-century France and the awfulness of the 8th Crusade, in which Isobel participates. We not only see life as the contemporaries see it, but through Isobel we see what they take for granted. Yet this is more than just a peep into the past, it is a strong story of love and loss, adventure and suffering and ultimate redemption. Isobel is no ordinary time traveller because she knows she is never going back to the future and she has to make her future in the past.