Every year or two there’s a “type” of story that seem to suddenly get really popular – vampires, werewolves, dystopia. I don’t think I’ve ever seen time travel get quite that level of buzz, but it’s definitely a popular theme… sadly, the biggest issues with time travel books is that they’re rarely done really well. You start to get annoyed by the multiple timelines or different versions of the characters or really complex sets of rules and a bit of the magic is lost. Invictus is one book that does time travel really, really well.
The book tells the story of Farway McCarthy, a boy born out of time who wants nothing more than to have the opportunity to explore history himself. He’s done everything right, but forces outside his control throw some unexpected obstacles in his path and his life takes a sharp left turn.
Far is willing to do what it takes to achieve his dream of time travel and step one is assembling a team. On the back of the book, it’s described as “Dr. Who meets Guardians of the Galaxy.” The ongoing time travel clearly plays into the Dr. Who element, but I think the Guardians angle comes from the fact that Farway is a charismatic, maybe slightly reckless leader and his crew is a motley assortment, but a clear family. There’s Priya, a medic, Far’s girlfriend and a cool, edgy sort of girl. There’s Imogen, the Historian and Far’s pseudo-sister. And finally there’s Gram, the friend and quirky tech/math genius. It’s a small and unusual crew, but they all care for each other and they work together seamlessly.
Interesting plot? Check. Characters done well? Check. Time travel done well? Also a check.
While time travel is at the core of this story, Ryan Graudin (thankfully) does not spend an excessive amount of time forcing you to worry about time streams and regulations. There’s an academy to get proper training for time travel, there’s a Time Travelers Code of Conduct and there are repercussions when the rules are broken, but you’re not hit over the head with it.
Invictus is really one of the most well done time-travel oriented books I’ve read, YA or otherwise.
In the descriptions online you’ll see mention of a “mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of [Far]” and I won’t discuss that as she leads to countless spoilers, but know there’s a really interesting twist ahead as well.
And to wrap things up, if you’re a time travel fan, clearly start with this book, but here are a few more reads you might enjoy: