Invictus by Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Publication date: 21 September 2017
Pages: 464 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 red pandas
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
I hadn’t read anything by Ryan Graudin before I started reading Invictus, but I had heard great things about her books. Invictus was easily one of the most highly anticipated proofs at YALC – everyone was so eager to get their hands on it. I didn’t get a proof, but I was able to get a digital ARC.
Time flies when you’re plundering history.
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.
But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.
Plot and Writing
There were aspects of this book that I really loved and other aspects that just didn’t really work for me. But one of the best parts of this book was the fact that the time travel actually almost made sense. Time travel and I don’t really mix – if I think about it too hard, my brain starts to fry. However, the way that she lay out the rules of time travel just made sense. There’s always going to be questions when time travel is involved, but I thought that her system was clever and well thought out.
The plot of these characters stealing historical artefacts and selling them on the black market was great – who wouldn’t want to plunder history? I thought all was well until it deviated from the established plot. I won’t spoil anything, but you should know what I’m talking about if you’ve read it. I really enjoyed the first half of the book much more than the second.
Okay, here’s where we really dive into what worked and what didn’t for me. Invictus is absolutely a character-driven book. For the most part, they were all amazing. Imogen, the ship’s historian, was my favourite. We really see her personality shine through the most because she’s so vivacious and colourful (not just her hair). She’s the optimist – she really holds the crew together.
I also loved Priya, the medic. She’s wonderful and so grounded. Through her, you really see the difficulties of the crew’s constant and secret time travel. They’ve been traveling for over a year, but only about a week or two has passed in their own time. She cannot share her adventures with her family, bring Far home, or really have a life at all in her own time. Imogen and Priya’s friendship is lovely and they way they accept Eliot when Far refuses speaks a lot for their respective characters.
You can’t talk about the crew without mentioning Saffron, Imogen’s domesticated red panda. Yes, there’s a domesticated red panda onboard. He’s the best.
Now on to the boys. Gram is the ship’s engineer, and I’m really sad that he didn’t get much back story, character development, or, well, personality. We know he’s a genius and that’s proven several times over. But the most interesting thing about him is his will-they-wont-they relationship with Imogen. Invictus is a standalone, so we wont get any further development for Gram, which is such a shame.
Now, onto Far. Faraway McCarthy is Our Hero and happens to be an absolute brat. A lot of my issue with this book stems from him. He’s such a jackass. His ego can’t fit on the ship! I desperately wanted him to be taken down a notch, but I feel like that never really happens. All he does is fume and shout and shriek when things don’t go his way. I was expecting some character development here, maybe some kind of redemption arc where his egotistical actions get everyone in a whole lot of trouble and he is humbled and changed by the end, but that just doesn’t really happen. I felt like there was no chemistry between him and Pryia, who are in a relationship by the time the main plot is established. It might have been that we don’t see the development of their relationship, but I’m not sure. Regardless, she’s too good for him!
When the pet red panda is a better character than the hero of the novel, that’s a problem.
That’s the established crew when the book begins. Eliot is thrown into the mix later on, when she cons her way onboard the ship. I wasn’t sure about Eliot at first – I didn’t buy the ‘too cool thief’ act, but she becomes an incredibly well-rounded and hardened character. She’s really fantastic.
Again, there were parts of Invictus that I loved and parts that I just didn’t like. It took me way too long to read this mostly because I just couldn’t stand Far. Overall, it’s a fun time travel book that manages to be whimsical and serious at the same time. For me, it was just alright, but I can easily see why some people are absolutely loving it.
Buy Invictus here: