And the Rest is History: Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Eight, by Jodi Taylor
There are writers who, when I take on their books, I know will make me roll up my sleeves and do some serious brain work. And there are others that are brain candy. Or more like a sorbet you have after a meal course to “cleanse the palate”. Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s is like that. This isn’t to say that they are without content but the characters and dialogue are so much fun that the experience feels more like dessert.
St. Mary’s is a facility for time travelers that allows historians to go back in time to record historical events. Some of their funding is managed by discretely burying historical artifacts where they can be “discovered” and sold in modern times. The series from the start has been narrated by Madeleine Maxwell (Max to her friends) from her first day at St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research through all her time traveling adventures, loves, losses, and drinking bouts with the closed society within the confines of St. Mary’s.
And these are not Peabody and Sherman travels. Every one of the eight books has gone into great detail on historical events as Max and fellow historians look over the shoulder of historical figures to describe the on-scene action. In this volume the historians visit The Battle of Hastings along with some of the events leading to the Norman Conquest. The action also takes them to the Sack of Constantinople. Other books have imagined the hanging gardens of Babylon, the Cretaceous Period, and World War I. Some have been events I’d never heard of before, like King John’s lost treasure.
There is a love interest from the future: Leon Farrell who, after several books of romantic ups and downs, Max has married. And an evil figure from the future: Clive Roman, who appears here worse than ever. And the Time Police, who dog St. Mary’s at every turn.
Jodi Taylor manages to mix humor, history, and adventure into a series that is comfortable for its familiarity. And Taylor has been prolific. The first book in the series came out in 2013, so she’s averaging two books per year and that doesn’t count the free books for several holiday stories.
I never miss a new book in the series and have never been disappointed in one. If anything Taylor has gotten better at bringing characters to the edge of total disaster and saving them in the nick of time. I suppose, given the theme of time travel, you could read the books in any order, feeling like a time traveler yourself and thinking “I know where this is going and you don’t … yet.”