Author: Pete Hautman
Publication Date: 4/12/12
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Blurb (GR): Kicking off a riveting sci-fi trilogy, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman plunges us into a world where time is a tool - and the question is, who will control it?
The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had just turned thirteen. The Reverend Feye simply climbed on the roof to fix a shingle, let out a scream, and vanished - only to walk up the driveway an hour later, looking older and worn, with a strange girl named Lahlia in tow. In the months that followed, Tucker watched his father grow distant and his once loving mother slide into madness. But then both of his parents disappear. Now in the care of his wild Uncle Kosh, Tucker begins to suspect that the disks of shimmering air he keeps seeing - one right on top of the roof - hold the answer to restoring his family. And when he dares to step into one, he's launched on a time-twisting journey - from a small Midwestern town to a futuristic hospital run by digitally augmented healers, from the death of an ancient prophet to a forest at the end of time. Inevitably, Tucker's actions alter the past and future, changing his world forever.
Good time-travel YA fiction is hard to find. Really hard. The Obsidian Blade is a whopping #2 on my list of good time-travel YA sci-fi (#1, in case you are interested, is Singing the Dogstar Blues). Even though I am giving this novel only 3 stars, I assure you, it is good. The main draw here is the time-traveling system, that includes a series of disks that were engineered by people of the future and that transport you to various significant points in human history. These points range from the Crucifixion of the Christ to 9/11 and more.
Like any time-travel story, The Obsidian Blade requires some effort to keep up with the characters' jumps from one event to another, with changes in setting, with time paradoxes and crossed paths and swallowed years. But not even once does Hautman waver and stumble into a plot hole. I am not sure how he managed to track it all, but every time jump and every after-effect of it in this story seems logical and inevitable. Hautman raises questions of faith and fate, challenges readers to think if our destiny is pre-determined or our free will guides it. Exciting stuff.
There are two reasons for my not rating The Obsidian Blade higher.
One, this novel, to my disappointment, reads not like YA, but like a children's/middle grade novel. Although Tucker is mostly 14 in this story, he appears to be much younger, still playing with his toy truck and engaging in activities equaling in their childishness to banging dumpsters with a stick. (The only reason I am bringing this up, because I have a couple of 10-year old neighbors who just love banging those dumpsters. I personally don't understand the thrill, but my husband does. Apparently, he did the same in the grade school. There are some things I will never understand about boys and men and what they find to be a good time.) There is no helping it, I prefer my stories a tad more mature, dealing with teen age issues, rather than following preteens whose main preoccupation is being annoying and constantly putting themselves at a risk of being injured .
Two, it takes a looong while to get to the sci-fi part of the book. Almost half of The Obsidian Blade is just setting the ground work, introducing main players and watching Tucker being bored or stupid. My attention held only barely during those first 150 pages. After this 150 page mark, though, is when the story finally gets going.
Normally, I do not stick with series if I give its opener 3 stars or lower, but here, I might make and exception and get back to it. I am intrigued by the world and the task Tucker and Lahlia have ahead of them.