I’ve been known to really enjoy Ms. Kelley’s Contemporaries, but what you probably don’t know is that I’m also a fan of her Fantasy trilogy of which Time Dancer is the last installment. Each book takes place in the same universe but features a different leading couple, yet they don’t stand alone that well, especially this book. You could read the first two in any order, but this one ties everything together and brings the series to a closure. Maybe this review will tempt you to try the books!
The setting is a fantasy land that somewhat resembles medieval Europe, but with magic. Jana, the heroine, has some magic but it’s fairly useless because it only gives her insight into the past, and even then, she’s not that good at it. But when her best friend, who happens to be the prince and heir to the throne, receives assassination attempt after assassination attempt, she asks the prince’s mother, a powerful sorceress, to create a spell to protect him.
In this particular universe spells take human forms, at least half the time since they can also shapeshift into animals. In fact, the queen originated as a spell and had her own love story in the first book. So now Jana gets her own spell in the form of Darach, a proud, almost conceited mountain of a man who can shift into a bear.
At first, Darach and Jana don’t get along that well, mostly because he sees her as unworthy and weak. But it doesn’t take long before he realizes there’s more to her, and the two end up falling in love. Each other is not the only they have to deal with, tough. The kingdom is in jeopardy, Darach knows nothing about the world and is awkwardly trying to get used to it, and no one even knows for sure who is trying to kill the prince. Basically, everything is a mess, and falling in love with a spell that will go back to his realm the moment they stop the person trying to kill the prince, doesn’t make things easier.
I don’t know why it took me so long to talk about this series, because the truth is that I really like it. The world-building is interesting and not overly complicated, the characters are likeable and the stories quite romantic.
Both Jana and Darach are fairly predictable Fantasy characters. She’s a bit of a Mary Sue, and he’s very strong and honorable. But the stereotypes aren’t cartoonish and each character has unique traits that make them stand out. This means that Darach is a socially-awkward virgin, and Jana is a socially-awkward virgin. Wait. No. She isn’t a virgin! In fact, that ship sailed a couple of times with an evil guy who broke her heart. She is slightly awkward and borderline annoying in her extreme vulnerability and selflessness, but she also develops a bit of a backbone. She’s too set in her self-sacrificing ways to be truly interesting, but I never disliked her.
The romance was sweet. It happens fast and includes a heavy dose of insta-lusty protectiveness and love, but Ms. Kelley takes time to show personality traits that justify the friendship and the love.
Perhaps my favorite part of the story is how it transgresses a couple of genre conventions and plot devices. The very alpha hero is a virgin who needs to be taught everything, including how to pleasure the more sexually experienced heroine. The first time they have sex things don’t go as smoothly, and she isn’t afraid to let him know. But what really surprised me was the fact that the popular fated mate trope is painted as a curse instead of a blessing. The whole plot revolves around how easier and happier everyone’s lives would be if fated mates didn’t exist.
Time Dancer is the last book in the series, and so the ending belongs to all the characters and not just to Darach and Jana. They all get satisfying resolutions that are this side of cheesy. It was sweet and a bit sad; in a way reflecting the emotions the reader faces when saying goodbye to the series.
The book isn’t perfect, and the flaws are easily spotted. But it packs a lot of emotional punch and it’s very engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think you will too, but listen to me when I tell you to read the books in order.
Review by Brie
Everyone has a duty in the royal castle—everyone except Jana Haruk. Despite her promising magical bloodline, her gift is weak. As a Reminiscent Seer, she knows only what happened in the past, not what will happen in the future. When the crown prince's life is threatened, Jana vows to do everything she can to help him—including asking the queen, a powerful sorceress, to lend her some magic.
The queen summons Darach, a spell in human form. The arrogant and mysterious man soon discovers there's more to Jana than meets the eye: she's a time dancer, someone with the ability to move backward through time in her dreams. With Darach as her anchor, Jana can explore the past and try to figure out who is behind the attacks on the prince.
Despite her attraction to him, Jana knows little about the handsome warrior. The past is tying them closer to each other with every trip, but Darach is bound to return to his homeland when his mission is complete and their time together is running out.
Time Dancer (The Eldwyn Chronicles) by Inez Kelley
Carina Press. February 11, 2013.