Have you ever shut someone out of your heart because you could not accept something they did? They did something so heinous that you could not see them with loving eyes? Max and Leon come to this point in A Second Chance, where both look at the other and see behavior that they cannot accept.
Max and the historical research unit at St. Mary’s are in for grim times in book #3, A Second Chance. Max and Leon have their ups and downs, mostly because they don’t or can’t talk to each other and Max is an emotional midget, albeit a midget who takes the first steps to growing up. Unfortunately she and Leon come to a point where neither can tolerate the other’s action and attitude.
The novel works on two levels: plot and character. The plot involves the usual mayhem punctuated with serious events, concussion by cheese and mass rape and murder in Troy. The historians thread their way through the Trojan war, they observe Troy at peace before the Greeks, then observe Troy as it falls. No one could see this and remain unmoved.
If we view the St. Mary’s stories purely as historical fiction they are outstanding as Taylor brings the conflicts and the historical people to life. She adds details to the stories and verisimilitude by having a real observer right there to see and feel everything. Max enjoys the peaceful year before the Greek war and walks the Trojan streets, watches the royal family and mingles with the inhabitants, and Max is a keen observer. She sees it, records it and tells it so that we are there too.
The characters’ growth parallels the historical actions. Max shuts Leon out, but too late realizes she still cares and that manic action doesn’t do much to heal heartbreak. (Max’s go-to strategy for any emotional upset mixes work and booze.) She very slowly comes to realize that just maybe she made a mistake when the question becomes moot.
Jodi Taylor does a fairly good job on the people, although I’ve noticed her female leads in this series and the Nothing Girl are emotionally stunted and/or not able to step up like adults and take responsibility for their own future. Max hides behind “history” and her job and settles in to nurse a grudge. Is her grudge justified? Somewhat, yes. But that’s what it means to be an adult and to love someone: It’s an act of will, and no, you will not always like (or even tolerate) the one you love.
Max reveals a streak of cowardice that turned me off. She didn’t even want to try to save a little boy, not even to make a short side trip in space and not in time to get him to a safer place. It was only later that she realized she could have tried something, and in fact, should have done so.
The best part of this novel is the up close and personal view of Troy and Agincourt. We are right there. Taylor adds a lot of guesswork and embellishes the story from the bare facts we know, so the plain narrative comes alive and we see and feel the Trojans’ terror and the desperate clash of armies. I suspect many of her readers are closet historians, or like me, interested but ignorant, and that’s one reason we love the books.
Why is it called A Second Chance? Max gets a second chance – more than one actually – including the biggest chance of all at the end.
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