Alice Payne returns in the thrilling sequel to Kate Heartfield’s Alice Payne Arrives.
After abducting Arthur of Brittany from his own time in 1203, thereby creating the mystery that partly prompted the visit in the first place, Alice and her team discover that they have inadvertently brought the smallpox virus back to 1780 with them.
Searching for a future vaccine, Prudence finds that the various factions in the future time war intend to use the crisis to their own advantage.
Can the team prevent an international pandemic across time, and put history back on its tracks? At least until the next battle in the time war…
Whereas the first novella in this series focused primarily on two alternating threads featuring Alice Payne and Prudence Zuniga respectively, the sequel has much more of an adventure team feel. I loved getting more time with Jane Hogdson and Constable Wray Auden. They’re all in the know where time travel is concerned, and I found it uniquely delightful to read about time travelers who are (mostly) from the 1780s. It’s such a fun juxtaposition to have futuristic tech in a historical setting.
I also thought it was unique and clever of Heartfield to dwell on the ramifications of time travel and disease transmission. The group hops through time and accidentally brings smallpox home, then has to jump forward to get a vaccine, and of course – hijinks! For anyone with COVID fatigue, please be assured that this is neither an overwhelming part of the book nor is it portrayed with much fear. I had just never seen a book about time travel address the fact that it would be super easy to screw history up with a sneeze.
Like Alice Payne Arrives, the science fiction aspects of the story are just outside of my understanding, but not so much that it affects the joy of the story. The characters are what really matter here, and watching them accidentally gather a motley crew of abandoned historical footnotes (there would have been an actual King Arthur if not for their meddling!) at Alice’s English estate. I hope we get to see more of them in the future!
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