Yes, I know Shanti already reviewed Invictus, but I’m low on posts so I’m just going for it tbh.
Author: Ryan Graudin
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Blurb: Farway McCarthy and his crew are illegal time travelers, tasked by their boss in 2371 to rescue priceless treasures before major world disasters. Far meets a mysterious girl an hour before the Titanic sinks, and he begrudgingly lets her join his crew. But Eliot has secrets of her own, and it turns out there’s more at stake than a few pieces of loot…
The setting was a strange fusion of sci-fi, time travel and historical places, from Alexandria to Rome to Las Vegas. It felt very well researched, but also didn’t waste time on excess worldbuilding when the setting (apart from the time travelling ship, Invictus), kept changing. I guess you could say it was focused on specific interesting details in each setting rather than describing each one as a whole. Sometimes a few little things give you more of a sense of place than many big ones.
The characters were really well written. It was written in third person, with changing perspectives that focused on different characters (mostly the Invictus crew members, but some others), that felt really natural and not as confusing as alternating first person is. This also meant different relevant people could tell different relevant parts of the story, and there could be perspective shifts in a chapter that were natural.
Uniquely for a YA book, the main, main characters already had a relationship that was still a thing (ish—it’s a time travel book, the ending is complicated) when the book ended. I really liked Priya and Farway’s relationship, and that Eliot wasn’t a romantic love interest like it seemed she might be, and how the relationship developed. YA books are often about falling in love, and this was more about what happens after, in a good way.
The budding relation that does arise (which is pretty obvious but whatever), was super shippable, I must say. I really liked the whole crew squad goals—Farway was the brave but also awkward captain, Imogen was the vibrant, creative researcher, Gram the engineer with a whole lot of cuteness, Priya the medic who couldn’t stop caring, and Eliot, the talented, broken wild card.
The writing was AMAZING. There were some almost poetry bits, with italics and broken phrases and repeated words. Mostly it was prose, with snappy dialogue, action scenes well paced and exciting, and generally it felt like the story was very clear and easy to follow but also somehow lyrical, with gorgeous metaphors and descriptions. It’s hard to explain, but the book was just very well written.
The entire concept just worked for me. Time travel can be a confusing thing to read about, but it was well explained (not the how it works scientifically, but paradoxes and such), and the reason for the character’s actions (if we go back in time and change this, then xyz is possible) made sense.
Overall, I loved reading Invictus. I had three small quibbles, though: Firstly, although they mention that they travel to all parts of the world and of history retrieving these precious items, all the places they travelled to were connected to European history. The capital city of the world of the future is in Rome, not in a BRICS nation or anything, and everywhere they go is in the Western world, except Alexandria, which was at that time controlled-ish by Rome anyway. I just wanted to see a more diverse array of places presented.
Secondly, the two hundred years in the future where all the crew are from doesn’t have any visible effects of climate change, although there is a mention of drought. I’ve got a post like this in the works, but I’m sick of dystopias and books set in the future which imagine a lot of things changed, but not the climate and environment.
I also thought there might have been a bit too much going on in the plot. It was handled very well by the very competent author, but there was quite a lot going on in the plot which almost was overwhelming. But the excellent writing pulled it off.
Overall, I totally enjoyed this sci-fi, romping adventure, the excellent characters, and the writing. No regrets about reading it at all.