Tyson hails from the year 2304, where he has been raised from birth (and shaped even before that) to be a time-traveling historian. Madi lives in the year 2136 and has accidentally managed to stumble into time travel before it’s been invented. Their stories become intertwined when something happens to break history as they know it—something that may fall at their time-traveling feet.
Rysa Walker’s Now, Then, and Everywhen is a big, sprawling time travel adventure that hints at more questions than it answers. The bulk of the story jumps between Tyson and Madi, each surrounded by their own cast of supporting characters and influences, and each traveling in time independently of one another. For Tyson, time travel is his everyday reality; he and his co-historians at CHRONOS explore history in the flesh, trying to capture those nuances that don’t generally survive the telling. For Madi, it’s a dangerous game; she’s literally fallen into time travel and is exploring it without a safety net of any sort (either for herself or for the course of history).
The book is a prequel to Walker’s CHRONOS series, and while it certainly isn’t necessary to have read her previous books, I’m sure one would benefit from being familiar with the world she has created. The book is peppered with references and moments that feel like they carry unseen weight, and this can leave the new reader feeling like they’re not getting the whole story. Now, Then, and Everywhen stands on its own, but the most intriguing of these references generate interest and questions that the book itself never answers. Whether this is because they’ve been addressed in previous books or because they may someday be addressed in future novels is unclear. Time travel makes for a tricky focal point and there’s certainly some risk inherent in putting it under a literary microscope—risk that Walker has embraced, more to her audience’s benefit than not.
Now, Then, and Everywhen is an often entertaining and occasionally compelling read, but it suffers a little from its size and scope. There is a tremendous amount of set-up involving a daunting number of characters, and many of the most intriguing questions aren’t effectively answered by the book’s conclusion. The result is a novel that feels like a paradox of its own; it runs a little long and yet ends too soon.
Walker’s new book won’t be for everybody, but it has lots to offer to the right sort of reader.
This review was originally published by Cloud Lake Literary in December of 2020.