Mini Book Review: STOLEN TIME (Dark Stars #1) - by Danielle Rollins

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Published: January 2020 - Harper Teen.
Genre: Young adult / romance / fantasy / time travel.
Pages: 432.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild sexual innuendos.  
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts are my own. 

Seattle, 1913 
Dorothy spent her life learning the art of the con. But after meeting a stranger and stowing away on his peculiar aircraft, she wakes up in a chilling version of the world she left behind—and for the first time in her life, realizes she’s in way over her head.

New Seattle, 2077 
If there was ever a girl who was trouble, it was one who snuck on board Ash’s time machine wearing a wedding gown—and the last thing he needs is trouble if he wants to prevent his terrifying visions of the future from coming true.

I don't have strong feelings on this book, which makes it hard to review. So I'll keep it short.

The writing is the best part of the novel, and I enjoyed it while still wishing for more. Not every sentence matters as much as it should, the dialogue is often contrived, but ultimately it's still lovely and haunting and gentle to read. It's not especially bad - just a little bland and unmemorable.

Occasionally, I was swept away by the story. There are moments of excitement, beauty, and mystery, and the author offers the reader some innocent, childlike escapism. It didn't break my heart. It didn't have me frantically flipping the pages. But it's relaxing and sweet, and I liked that.

At the same time, the plot is weak. It's predictable and underwhelming, and I never connected to the story or the characters. There aren't strong emotional stakes. The author doesn't dig deep with the characters and the story, and incidents are safe and mediocre. It's all very nice (which has its merits), but it's not particularly thrilling or layered.

I appreciated the time travel system. It's clever and original, and the loop aspect ("time is a circle" to put it simply) is a fascinating concept. Ironically, though, the chapters from the Professor's perspective which focus on explaining the time travel are a little wordy and boring. I liked it more when the logistics were incorporated into the other characters' unfolding narratives because at least they had personalities (the Professor did not). 

    Time travel meant there were endless options, each filled with their own wonderful, terrible things. Her heart thrummed inside her chest. She wanted to see them all.    

Dorothy and Ash are dull characters. She's naive, innocent, and smart, and Ash is rugged and proactive and witty. But, they're also one-dimensional. Their personalities aren't strong, Ash's charming wit is too Han Solo wannabe, Dorothy's skills as a con woman are painfully contrived to make her seem intelligent, and neither character comes across as a fully realised, three dimensional human being. Dorothy is so boring - she has no depth, and she meanders along after Ash and co. without a strong point of view or motivation. Similarly, Ash's motivation is weak; he wants to find the Professor to get answers about his impending death and to save his city, basically, but apart from mentioning those reasons once or twice it's never at the forefront of his journey. He's never properly affected by those motivations; it's like they're motivations in name only.  The urgency, depth, backstory and personal connection isn't there and it's never felt. That takes a lot away from the story.

There is a diverse ensemble of secondary characters, and initially I was excited to see their personalities playing out and also to learn more about their characters. But as the story continues, their presences aren't utilised. They all have their roles (Zora is the Professor's daughter, Chandra is a medic, Willis is the muscle, and Roman is the villain and potential part of the love triangle) but they have no real depth or backstory and the cast chemistry is nonexistent.

The romance is extremely light. It's sweet, but I never connected to the characters so I wasn't deeply invested in their relationship.

Stolen Time is endearing and whimsical, offering a fresh spin on time travel. But the characters are underdeveloped, the plot is unimagined, and the story is soulless. 

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