By Janet B. Taylor
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
To Sum It Up: Grieving over the loss of her mother, Hope Walton accepts an invitation from her mother's sister, whom she's never met, to escape for a while to the Scottish Highlands. Almost at once, Hope suspects that there's more to this visit than connecting with family. Everything that Hope's mother has hidden from her all these years begins to come to light, including the fact that her mother belongs to a group of time travelers. Hope soon finds herself following in her mother's footsteps as part of a dangerous mission that is about to take her back to medieval England and the court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Review: Into the Dim was the second of back-to-back time travel books for me, and I went into it fairly optimistic that it would make two winning reads in a row. The blurb intrigued me very, very much: time travel + Scotland + medieval England. Into the Dim is being touted as a YA Outlander, and while I'm always skeptical of such comparisons, of course the Outlander mention still caught my attention. I also love medieval history, so I was fully prepared to fall hard for this book. Sadly, things did not work out this way.
For anyone who's curious, Into the Dim bears little resemblance to Outlander aside from the time travel and part of the novel taking place in the Scottish Highlands. The time travel in Into the Dim doesn't even occur until about a third of the way into the book. It's given what I found to be a muddled explanation as well, involving ley lines, lodestones, and Tesla-built machinery. I couldn't wrap my head around how these things were connected, and after a while, I gave up trying.
It wasn't too long after beginning the novel that I started finding protagonist Hope's character problematic. She tries to be snarky, but her efforts come across as condescension. This is especially evident in a few disparaging comments she makes about other girls her age. Hope judges everyone, all while being the girl who's beautiful and extraordinary because she's completely, utterly oblivious to how beautiful and extraordinary she is. As we are frequently reminded throughout the book, Hope has a photographic memory, so again—she’s special. The novel works hard—too hard, I think—to demonstrate how indispensable her talent is in helping her escape trouble.
For someone who believes there's a solid head on her shoulders, Hope makes some rather unwise decisions. She gets a weird vibe from a guy she meets soon after arriving at her aunt's manor in Scotland but dismisses it and meets up with him again. When she and her companions (finally!) journey back to 12th century England, she makes enemies with Thomas à Becket, future Archbishop of Canterbury, within about five minutes of arriving. To make up for this, though, Eleanor of Aquitaine, on the verge of being crowned Queen of England, takes a shine to Hope because, lest we forget, Hope is a phenomenon.
Even a trip back to one of my favorite historical periods, the Middle Ages, couldn't help me rally some investment in this book. The details of the era felt minimal, sufficient to establish that the story had shifted centuries but not nearly enough to create an immersive experience. Whenever I read about the past, I want to be pulled back into that time, too, and not just be a casual, distant observer of someone else's adventures.
Overall, this was a tough book for me to get through. I really didn't care for Hope's narration, which makes heavy use of similes. None of the secondary characters particularly stand out, either. There's also a whiff of insta-love and possibly a love triangle down the road. I won't be checking in on its development, however, because I'm not continuing with this series.
All in All: I was at odds with Hope's character and narrative voice from the very beginning, which naturally is a huge obstacle to overcome when you're reading from a first person POV. Other readers might have better luck with this than I did; it definitely wasn't what I'd expected or hoped it would be.