While this series still doesn't quite make it to my "favorites of all time" shelf, it has the distinction of being one of the most unique portal fantasies I've ever read. Fourteen children, not all from one time, but all from the same family, had been brought to the world of Calhorz, in twenty-year increments, and frozen at the age of twelve, thus earning themselves the name "Time Captives." Now that they're all here, things are finally set in motion and they can begin freeing the land from the oppressive Strytes, starting with rescuing the true king, who is trapped on an island by a thing called the Bresmi, which can only be deactivated by a thing called the Redona, which is hidden a place called the Crossways. Lots of fun adventure going on there, as they escape from the Crannig Castle dungeon, and make their way across the sea.
But the true heart of this story is Adriel. A slave of the strytes, Adriel's life has anything but easy, and he's earned the title of a rebellious slave. The one bright point in his life is his younger sister, Rae, his only remaining family member - but even she is stripped from him when they're both sold, she to be a playmate to a young stryte, he to be a gladiator. His struggle with faith is so real and raw ... it might have brought tears were I a more emotional reader.
The backstory involving Eleanor was also intriguing, and heartbreaking, though I honestly wanted to throw her against the wall and tell her to wake up and count her blessings. Still, as her arc isn't finished yet, I suppose I can withhold my judgement a wee bit longer.
Worldbuilding was exciting. The author took more of a scientific approach to the fantasy world, which is something I always enjoy, and the world itself was such a delightful mix of eras, and peopled with interesting races. I enjoyed getting to know more about the world.
And ... I really don't have anything negative to say about the book (beyond throwing Eleanor against that wall). The writing style is a bit stiff, but it's been a vast improvement since the author's first book. Since I had the opportunity of beta reading the story, I was able to bring the issues I had directly to the author, and she dealt with them for the final version.
In short, this is a sweet little story that is another wonderful addition to the portal fantasy genre, and one that kept me up way past my bedtime reading multiple times. (And has me up way past my bedtime writing this review!) I enjoyed reading it both times, and I wish I had had this series back in my pre-teen years.
TEEN - upper elementary to middle school
Profanity: NONE - no offensive language
Sexuality: NONE - not even hinted at
Some fantasy fighting and death, but nothing gory