One of the reasons I’m always skeptical when starting books about time travel is that the idea of time travel in and of itself is just tedious. There are always so many rules that go into regulating it and they can dominate both the world building and the story. Invictus – like all stories – has to establish its basic rules for time travel, but it does so in a way that compliments both the story and the world Graudin is creating.
The world in which Farway McCarthy and his friends live is an incredibly rich and developed future in where travel is simply a part of life. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of Invictus. Graudin has created this world that feels almost like a reflection of ours while still being interesting and unique. Kids who go to time travel academies struggle to find jobs afterward the same way college graduates do today. And in a world where technology can literally send people back in time there are still resources that have been depleted and basic goods today (like gelato) that have become luxury items in high demand.
I probably could have spent the entire book just wandering the streets of Far’s futuristic home.
But, of course, Graudin had so much more to offer us than just the exquisite world buliding.
Invictus follows a young man named Far, who was born aboard a time ship to a mother who found forbidden love in another time. He dreams of following in her footsteps even after she disappeared on a mission gone wrong, but fate has other plans. After failing his exams under suspicious circumstances, Far gathers together his friends and forms a team of time jumping thieves. They end up stealing priceless artifacts throughout time just moments before they get obliterated in some kind of disaster.
Of course, as awesome as it would be to simply have a book full of Oceans 11-style heists throughout history, the story is much bigger than that. Far finds himself in the middle of a cataclysmic series of events that may put all of history at risk.
Far is not alone in his journey to avert potential disaster. His team of close friends are an incredibly diverse group of personalities, all of whom shine every moment they come across the page.
His cousin Imogen is an incredibly fun, outgoing character and her frisky pet red panda is a joy. I loved their engineer, Gram, whose love of retro games like Tetris and Rubix Cubes just goes to show that throwback, nostalgia wins with young people even a hundred years or more into the future. And I loved Priya with whom Far might see a future — but of all the characters I feel like we didn’t get nearly enough time with her. Though, by the end, she has some really great moments.
Then there is the enigmatic Eliot, who comes out of nowhere and rushes headlong into their lives. The second primary point-of-view character besides Far, Eliot’s story unfolds in an almost cryptic way as her true motives are revealed slowly over the course of the book. She’s an incredibly capable, if mysterious, individual and, as much as I loved Far and his friends, she’s really one of the primary forces driving the story forward.
But I won’t get into that, since you need to discover Eliot’s motives for yourself as you read the book!
One last thing I want to mention because I think it’s important: this book has an amazing ending. If you read through the whole book, you won’t be disappointed. It may not be what you expect or what you might hope for, but it’s incredibly satisfying and I absolutely loved it. After finding myself so enthralled throughout the book, I couldn’t have envisioned a better way to wrap up the story (I’m staying very ambiguous here because I don’t want to give even away even a hint of how things are resolved).
Invictus is one of my favorite young adult books of the year and if you love fast-paced stories with incredible characters then I highly recommend it! Whether you’re generally a fan of time travel or not, you should give it a chance. Ryan Graudin won me over within the first couple of chapters and I wouldn’t be surprised if her story does the same for you. Invictus is more than worth a read and if you decide to check it out you definitely won’t regret it!