With the power to travel through time, apparently, comes the responsibility to save the world whenever it looks like it’s about to end. The prologue to E.J. Swift’s Paris Adrift drops us right into one of these crises. Bombs have destroyed Europe and possibly the rest of the world, too. The people of the House of Janus have just one chance to rewrite history. That chance is Hallie, a woman on the run from her artist mother and newly arrived in Paris…and who has no idea that she can travel through time.
The prologue is bewildering. It’s also a titch bit portentous as characters make all kinds of dramatic statements. I was a bit close to ditching the book, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Once Hallie takes over as narrator, I was hooked on Paris Adrift. We meet her in 2017, just as she is about to try and wrangle a job interview at Millie’s, a venerable Paris bar. Someone gave her a tip and a name to drop to speed her way. After one night of very hard work—and a brief glimpse of a girl who looks a bit like Hallie and who is definitely wearing Hallie’s shoes—Hallie scores a position with the close-knit bar crew. Her new life is a dramatic change from serving the needs of her mother (who is determined to be an artist at all costs); she’s finally content with her life. But then, strange things start to happen. A woman in green tells her crazy things about traveling through time. Hallie experiences unsettling moments in the keg room of Millie’s. Then, bam!, Halie finds herself in 1875.
Thus begins Hallie’s sojourning through time, doing small tasks for an entity that appears either as a talking bird (go with it) or as a woman wearing something green. These tasks seem like minor meddling in history, but there are big changes when Hallie returns to her own time. Other people might be turned off the idea of time-traveling for fear of causing a world war or something. Hallie, however, is addicted to the feeling of traveling through the centuries of Parisian history. Even though Paris Adrift begins with the end of the world, much of the novel remains focused on Hallie and her literal and figurative journeys. I didn’t mind this at all. I loved looking at time-travel from the perspective of someone who just got caught up in something much bigger than they are. What would it be like if you, an ordinary person, suddenly learned that you had an amazing ability and duty to save the world? What would that do to you? Those are the questions Paris Adrift tackles.
I had a lot of fun reading Paris Adrift, once I got past a prologue that was a little too cryptic for its own good. I had a blast with the characters and dipping in and out of time with Hallie. I might have liked a bit more of Hallie’s adventures in the past, but I knew that the narrative would eventually have to swing back around to the events from the prologue. By that point, I had the requisite background to understand what the hell was actually going on and I didn’t mind so much that Hallie had to turn her attention from herself to the awesome task of saving history.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.