Book Title: Red, White and the Blues – Chronos Origins, Book Two
Author: Rysa Walker
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Available on: Amazon as an eBook, a paperback, an audiobook and as an audio CD
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
It’s 2136 and Madi is doing her best to bring her boyfriend Jack back to the present. Reeling from recent events, as depicted in the previous novel “Now Then and Everywhen”, Madi is trying to figure out what the next step is. After all, she needs all the help she can get after discovering that a group of people from an alternate timeline are playing a deadly game, using her reality as their playground!
Teaming up with Tyson and his group of CHRONOS historians in 2304, they work together to try to stop these rogue time travelers. But when key events from the past are altered, the entire history of the world gets changed! What’s worse, CHRONOS is erased from existence, leaving Tyson and his team little resources and no idea how to fix it all!
Madi and Tyson all work together, and along with Katherine, they discover that these visitors from another reality are playing a real-life version of a strategy game called Temporal Dilemma. Only this time, this is no game – world history is at stake, as well as the lives of all the players. There are deadly consequences for losing, especially for the world! Can our team of intrepid time travelers win the game and restore history to change it back to what it once was?
As Madi and Tyson’s teams look at the rules of the game, they are also forced to use their skills to try to find the crucial pivot points that caused history to change as drastically as it did. The rules limit the ways they can play, as well as the ways they can alter the past and fix the timeline. This makes an already difficult scenario even more perplexing.
There are also “style points” that if they maximize them, will give them the lead they need to ultimately win. Forced to work within those limitations, they must be imaginative in their investigations and the executions of their strategy. Madi and her intrepid team enter perilous waters with each time period they visit, encountering famous (and infamous) figures from the past.
Their opponents don’t play fair either, as they skate dangerously close to the edge and even cross the line of said rules in the name of winning. This adds additional layers of difficulty to an already complex challenge.
They also must face some of the ugliness from America’s past: racism, sexism, the Ku Klux Klan, and the rise of the American Nazi movement. All these topics and more are thoroughly explored in how they impact history.
As readers, we discover the key figures in those movements, some in plain sight and others extremely well hidden, pulling strings and exerting influence from the shadows. And for Madi’s team, understanding the uphill climb they face makes for a fascinating read against an implacable and wily foe.
Meanwhile, the history of CHRONOS continues to be fleshed out Madi’s friends working on the time travel technology development in 2136, continuing to add to the mythos of the CHRONOS saga.
Mixing all these ingredients makes for an unpredictable novel that deepens the trilogy in engrossing ways. Especially since time travel is part of the mix. But the author deftly keeps the novel on track, following each duo across the different time periods as they attempt to correct how the other team manipulated history.
It all culminates into a rip-roaring finale in a race against time. The setting is also familiar to readers who’ve read other CHRONOS stories. But the stakes have never been higher, and I wondered whether everyone will come out of this unscathed or whether people will die.
Madi, Tyson, and the other members of their team all face challenging situations and the more they explore history, the more they try to pinpoint where it was altered. As a result, we learn more about them, the quality of their character, what they believe in, and how it informs their actions. Their fairness, decency, and strong moral center are assets against enemies who have none of those qualities.
In this novel, the author brings a couple of supporting characters into the spotlight more. The first is Katherine, one of the CHRONOS historians from 2304. In previous CHRONOS novels, it’s established that she has a specific role to play in the history of the Cyrists and with Saul Rand. Here, we see her behaving in a way that made me cheer her on with her self-advocacy and independence from others.
As a result, she begins to move away from that destiny in such a way that it makes me think that all bets are off and that time may be irreparably changed, perhaps for the better. But I’m also sure this might (or might not – this is time travel we’re talking about) have further repercussions in the final book in this trilogy.
I also appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed the inclusion of Clio here. She, and her parents, have supporting roles to play in this story. Her backstory is very well intertwined with previous CHRONOS novels and characters. She is also fleshed out and given plenty to do. This is not some glorified cameo; there are some very specific story-based reasons she is needed for this novel.
Also, what you might not know is that she was the main character in the graphic novel “The CHRONOS Files: Time Trial.” Her adventures during and after the events of the first CHRONOS Files trilogy are alluded to in this novel.
While you can read this novel and know everything you need to know about Clio, her previous adventures are subtly alluded to here. If you’re interested, I would encourage you to read more about Clio’s backstory. My review for this graphic novel and Clio’s adventures can be found at this link here.
There are lots of connections to previous CHRONOS stories, some subtle and some more upfront. If you haven’t read any of the other stories before now, the author does a great job getting the reader up to speed without requiring that you’ve read other CHRONOS stories. However, I think you’ll find that you’ll want to when you see what a wide canvas the author has created with all of her previous stories in this universe.
Finally, thrown into the mix is the wild card, Saul Rand. Known from previous novels as the leader of the Cyrists and the head bad guy from the previous CHRONOS trilogy, he’s causing even more trouble here. Only this time there are two of him (time travel is funny that way).
Both are equally crafty, and each has their own secret agenda. Throughout this story, it made me wonder what shenanigans they were getting into, which side either of them is on and whether their allegiances are to their team or to themselves.
The time travel plot is an intricate one and it boggled my mind how many different story threads, characters, situations, time periods and historical figures were well utilized here. And the historical research is second to none, well incorporated into the story and adding to an already fascinating tapestry being woven here. There’s also plenty of great characters here given a lot of psychological depth and layers to explore. It makes them live vibrantly in my mind and all of them distinctively stood out.
This is a highly ambitious time travel story and that is saying something, considering her previous novels that I have read. It ups the ante from the first novel in the CHRONOS Origins trilogy in a way that made my jaw drop. From an ordinary author, this is the kind of plot that might be saved for the final novel in a trilogy. But not Rysa Walker.
She takes this idea and elevates it in such a way that I was compelled to read one chapter after another without stopping. Taken to such an entertaining and provocative level, it makes me wonder how she will top herself and end the trilogy. I truly look forward to reading that novel when it is ready.
Having read Rysa Walker’s stories, I can truly say that this is her writing at the peak of her storytelling abilities. Writing in the time travel genre has many tropes and she manages to blast through all of them. She boldly tackles many adult and tricky subjects here with aplomb and grace. And that level of skill is infused in every page and I experienced the enjoyment of the story on each one.
In this adventurous story, nothing is easy, the time travel is swift, the surprises are endless and the characters are engaging. Take a captivating ride about using the world’s stage for the largest game of Temporal Dilemma ever played. Also, hope that Madi and Tyson’s teams do their best to make sure the timeline is as intact as they can make it. When you’re done, you will truly hunger for the final book in the trilogy.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Rysa Walker include “Now, Then and Everywhen“, “Simon Says – Tips for the Intrepid Time Traveler“, “Clones: The Anthology“, “The Delphi Effect – The Delphi Trilogy, Book 1“, “The Delphi Resistance – The Delphi Trilogy, Book 2“, “The Delphi Revolution – The Delphi Trilogy, Book 3” and “The Abandoned – A Delphi Novella“.
Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews for non-fiction books written by Clifford Herriot, the pseudonym for Rysa Walker and her husband, include “The Dog Days of Christmas“, “The Dao of Dog” and “What to Expect When Your Humans are Expecting“.