Into the Dim, by Janet B. Taylor (2016, 432 pages) is an entertaining, suspenseful YA book. But after I finished the story I read a little bit about the real Eleanor of Aquitaine who features in this story, and I have to say I think this is one of those rare cases in which the true history is even more interesting than the fiction.
When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.
Hope is a pretty good main character. She’s spunky, loyal, and brave. She has an eidetic (photographic) memory which comes in handy for cramming for her time travel mission. However, I think the author overstates the uses to which an eidetic memory can be put. I did appreciate the author’s backstory which explained how Hope came to learn the extinct languages needed for her journey back in time. The way Hope’s first teenage romance is depicted in Into the Dim is exciting, and you can’t predict what is going to happen. A couple of the supporting characters are even more appealing or intriguing than Hope.
The best part of the book for me was the depiction of twelfth-century life in general and the Queen Eleanor in particular. My sense was that the author made the past a little too accessible, and didn’t capture how truly different those times were, but of course we need to be able to relate to the fictional world so I can understand the choices the author made. To appreciate this book fully, I recommend reading a little bit about Eleanor of Aquitaine before you dive into the book, if you are not familiar with her exciting story. (Reading about her daughter Alix in Wikipedia, I came across this little tidbit : Alix married Theobald V, Count of Blois, who, ironically enough, had previously attempted to abduct Alix’s mother to force her into a marriage with him. Wait-what? Obviously, things were very different in those days.) The writing is heavy-handed in several scenes in the book that highlight violence against women and discrimination against Jews in that era. Indeed, there is nothing subtle about this story, but for most readers that is probably okay. The story ends with a cliffhanger and the words to be continued. The sequel is due in the spring of 2017.