Tuesday, January 05, 2010

KINGDOM OF OHIO by Matthew Flaming

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

This is a difficult book to describe.  Part time travel tale, part alternative reality science fiction, part historical novel and part romance.  A little bit of everything packed into a small book.  The book is narrated by an elderly antiques dealer. Upon finding an old photograph in a delivery of antique goods, the narrator is moved to tell the story of a young star-crossed couple in the year 1900.  Peter Force, a young engineer working on the new subway system in New York City, meets a mysterious woman named Cheri-Anne Toledo in a chance encounter who claims to have traveled through time.  She also claims to be the heir to the small kingdom of Ohio, a little known royal enclave in the middle of the United States.  Peter is drawn into Cheri-Anne's tale which throws them both in the path of such powerful individuals as Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan and Nikola Tesla.  Is Cheri-Anne telling the truth?  And how is the narrator of the story connected to these events? What is so significant about the photograph that the narrator discovered? 

I loved the idea of this book. The historical references were intetesting and intriguing. And the slight science-fiction element added a fun twist to everything.  I believe the author attempted to do too much in such a short book. I didn't buy the whole romance angle.  It felt forced and a little rushed. If the author had fleshed out the story a bit more and had taken a little more time with it, it could have been truly great. The story returns to the narrator several times throughout the book and it often felt jarring.  One moment, the reader is carried away by the action and then the story abruptly returns to the narrator. The book is also littered with footnotes which really serve to slow the whole narrative more than they advance the story or offer more information.  I felt the ending was rushed as well.  It was a little confusing although I like how the story wrapped up.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations.  This could have been a truly great book. The ideas are fresh and original. However, the author tries to do too many things in too short a time.  If the book had been stretched out a bit, it would have been much more effective. It's a great premise though and worth looking into if you enjoy time travel and historical fiction.

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