The Prince of Nowhere, by Rochelle Hassan, for Timeslip Tuesday
The Prince of Nowhere, by Rochelle Hassan (May 2022, HarperCollins), is a time slip book, I've spoiled it a little. But it can't be helped, and so I will bravely move on and try to explain what the book is about and why I liked it lots (in a nutshell, great world-building, great characters, a chilling moral dilemma) without spoiling it too much more!
Roda has lived a safe, snug life with her mother in a small town that's protected by an curtain of enchanted, freezing cold mist. Her adventurous aunt Dora has ventured beyond the mist, travelling through monster-filled lands to other towns, each likewise engirdled, and even to other lands, and Roda dreams of maybe someday following in her footsteps. But adventure finds her first.
Anonymous riddling notes begin to arrive, each with a small prediction about the future that always comes true. So when a note comes instructing her to venture almost inside the mist to find a crow, she does...and brings the almost frozen crow home. It isn't an ordinary crow, but a shapeshifting boy named Ignis, whose clan has just been destroyed by monsters.
Ignis has no home anymore, and doesn't know what he was doing before he crashed in the mist. The anonymous note writer does, though, and has just set a plan in motion that will take Roda and Ignis on an impossible, irrational journey through the mist, through the monsters, to a place called Nowhere.
Nowhere is a pocket universe place, created by the same long-gone magician that set the protective mist in place, that can only be entered, and left, during the three days a great comet passes by. It also is a time portal, where Anonymous is waiting. When Ignis realizes this, he desperately wants to go back in time to save his clan, but Roda is convinced this is a mistake. The trust they've built up in their travels is threatened, as is the course of their lives, and the clock is ticking as the comet passes by...Will they be trapped in Nowhere before it comes around again? Will they be caught in a looping time slip for decades? And what does Anonymous, who (in the words of the Goodreads blurb) "threatens their past, present, and future," want from them?
It is a cracking good read--lots of good build up to the adventure, an exciting journey, a truly magical and wonderous and disturbing destination (I cannot stress enough how fascinating Nowhere is), and a really intriguing high-stakes puzzle. The author tried really hard to make the time travel elements understandable, but it still required careful thought and I'm not quite sure I firmly grasped all that proceeded this episode of a story that had been playing out for years. This did not trouble me overmuch, though, because I was happily reading, and cheering for Ignis and Roda to come out of their adventure with their friendship, and futures, intact.
Recommended to all who like middle grade fantasy (there is also a pinch of dragon, if that sweetens the pot of my recommendation), and to time travel fans who particularly enjoy one of the central conundrums of the genre--if you could go back in time to set things right, would you go?
The ending is self-contained, but there's lots of room for more, and I hope we get it!