Hope For The Best by Jodi Taylor

The Blurb On The Back:

You can’t change History.  History doesn’t like it.  There are always consequences.

Max is no stranger to taking matters into her own hands.  Especially when she’s had A Brilliant Idea.  Yes, it will mean breaking a few rules, but – as Max always says – they’re not her rules.

Seconded to the Time Police to join in the hunt for the renegade Clive Ronan, Max is a long way from St Mary’s.  But life in the future does have its plus points – although not for long.

A problem with the Time Map reveals chaos in the 16th century and the wrong Tudor queen on the throne.  History has gone rogue, there’s a St Mary’s team right in the firing line and Max must step up.

You know what they say.  Hope for the best.  But plan for the worst. 

You can order HOPE FOR THE BEST by Jodi Taylor from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s several weeks after AN ARGUMENTATION OF HISTORIANS.  Dr Madeline “Max” Maxwell and her husband, Chief Technician Leon Farrell are still recovering from their injuries sustained by Dottle’s betrayal and with Clive Ronan having escaped again, their son, Matthew, remains with the Time Police for his own safety; his visits to his parents supervised by Captain Ellis.

With the Time Police apparently incapable of capturing Ronan (best not to mention how he’d recently been hiding on the St Mary’s roof), Max comes up with a desperate plan to do it herself.  This means leaving her role as head of the St Mary’s History Department and getting seconded to the Time Police.  On the plus side, she can spend more time with Matthew but on the minus side, the Time Police cohort don’t hide their low opinion of her (Ellis excepted) and are keen to ensure that she knows her place.  Spoiler: she doesn’t.

When Matthew accidentally uncovers a major problem with the Time Map, Max is sent to accompany Ellis and a squad of Time Police on a mission to Tudor England where, history is rapidly unravelling because Mary Tudor failed to become queen …

The 10th in Jodi Taylor’s THE CHRONICLES OF ST MARY’S SERIES is a fast-paced, cosy SF novel with lots of no-nonsense Britishness, plenty of time travel and intrigue and laced with wry humour and while I hadn’t read the previous 9 books, I had little difficulty in following this and will check out the earlier books.

I’ll begin the review with a confession: I picked up this book by mistake, mis-reading the description as being the 1stin the series rather than the 10th.  I don’t normally pick up books this far down the line in a series unless it’s a crime novel (because the structure of a crime book series is basically an episodic one) so I was a little reluctant to start this as I figured that there’d be a lot I’d need to understand in order to follow it.

It is certainly true that a heck of a lot has happened to Max and the St Mary’s brigade in THE CHRONICLES OF ST MARY’S SERIES to date and the plot is full of references to characters who have left (but reappeared), past antagonists, internal politics and petty rivalries. For the most part, however, I found that I was able to keep track of how what has happened has impacted on the plot here – so I understand that Clive Ronan is a bad dude messing about with time who has some kind of history with Max and who did something terrible to Matthew (although I didn’t quite understand why Matthew has to stay with the Time Police for his own protection).  I also got that there had been some kind of alternate time thing shenanigans with Leon and that minor deities appear to be involved in the plot and all of that actually served to pique my interest in going back to see what’s happened with the earlier books.

In terms of this book, I liked Max’s no-nonsense narration and the wry little asides and quips that she makes.  One of my favourite scenes is when she’s hauled in front of the Time Police Commander Hay after demonstrating to one of the cohort that she wasn’t a wuss who could be easily dominated.  Her relationship with Leon is neatly depicted, sweet without being cloying and I liked how they are both independent people and while I didn’t quite get what was going on with Matthew, there’s enough here for me to believe in why Max interacts with him in the way that she does.

Plot wise, there’s a lot going on here but it doesn’t feel particularly connected – the Mary Tudor plotline is very much distinct from the Clive Ronan storyline.  I don’t know how typical this is of the series but it didn’t particularly spoil my enjoyment, mainly because Taylor keeps the pace up throughout the storyline so it never feels that it’s lagging.  I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of the Tudor segments but it certainly feels realistic and credible and the way she depicts history slowly unravelling is genuinely creepy.

The Clive Ronan storyline didn’t quite work so well for me precisely because I didn’t know all of the background to it but I admired the way she teased out Max’s plan although Atticus Wolfe and Demiyan Khalife proved to be a little throwaway after all of the sinister build up. I did like the tensions between St Mary’s and the Time Police though with Dr Bairstow establishing himself as a firm favourite of mine given his quiet demeanour and ability to plan ahead.

All in all, I found this an enjoyable read and will now go back and read the rest of the series in order.

HOPE FOR THE BEST was released in the United Kingdom on 25th April 2019.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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