A Twist in Time, the latest novel from Brent A Harris, takes some familiar Dickens characters and locations and adds in a layer of Steampunk. Oliver Twist pickpockets a time-travelling pocket watch and his life changes direction yet again! Overall the result is an engaging mix of the familiar and the strange.
This is not a stodgy Dickens pastiche. It’s a an ambitious, genre-spanning re-imagining of Dickens’s London with time travel, steampunk and a splash of the superheroic. There’s plenty of action, a dastardly villain with an evil plot and a satisfyingly explosive finale.
Harris has done his research, and there’s plenty of period detail on show, but there’s no getting away from the sense that this is an English classic tackled by a modern American writer. That’s neither a positive, nor a negative, by the way, it’s just a thing. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
There are, however, a couple of things I have to mark it down for. The book is largely told first person, but with occasional asides in third person. While they do give some insight into the supporting cast, for me they undercut the pacing of the narrative and completely break immersion. These sections are short, but distracting. The other negative may be a misunderstanding on my part, as certain elements of the villain’s dastardly plan don’t make sense to me. Often the way with villainous plans, of course, but the practicalities of the plan left me scratching my head on more than one occasion.
Make no mistake though, those quibbles aside, I thoroughly enjoyed delving into Harris’s imagining of this world. We learn with Oliver as the mystery unravels, we get some entertaining training montages, some clever play with time travel, and an epic conclusion.
Recommended with 4 stars.