Flaming's debut mixes time travel, historical grit and an alternate history of the American frontier in a romance with a fantastic bent. A contemporary antiques dealer, after coming across an old photo, unspools the story of Peter Force, newly arrived in 1900 New York from Idaho, as he joins a crew of laborers toiling in grim conditions to build the subway system. A chance encounter throws Peter into the path of Cheri-Anne Toledo, a troubled woman who claims to have traveled seven years into the future from the Lost Kingdom of Ohio, a small frontier kingdom over which her father reigned. Cheri-Anne's plight, and his feelings for her, drags them into the orbits of a crusty J.P Morgan and of dueling inventors Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla. As Peter and Cheri-Anne evade the powerful forces invested in Cheri-Anne, the moment when their lives and the contemporary narrator's intersects looms closer and closer, creating palpable suspense. The journey through the seedier side of New York's Gilded Age, with reprisal killings for labor agitators and nights spent in drunken dance halls, is an arresting contrast to classic time-travel themes. This is a real crowd-pleaser. (Dec.)
Flaming's debut channels the magical realism of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, the historical New York settings of E.L. Doctorow, and the time travel romance of Jack Finney's Time and Again. Peter Force, an Idahoan, and Cheri-Anne Toledo, from the Kingdom of Ohio, each bring unhappy memories and a fascination with science to 1901 New York City. Joined by fate, they meet on the streets and feel stirrings of romance, but their secret pasts draw them into power struggles among Nikolai Tesla, Thomas Edison, and J.P. Morgan. The answers to their dilemmas lie in the spooky, dangerous subway tunnels newly dug beneath the city. VERDICT Flaming has a gift for creating atmosphere, but thin protagonists, uninspired plotting, poorly used secondary characters, and a pale romance fail to take advantage of the ambience. A plot twist referring to the Roanoke colony comes far too late to be meaningful. For hard-core fans of time travel historical romance only. [See fall first-fiction feature, "Falling into Bounty," LJ 10/1/09.]—Neil Hollands, Williamsburg Regional Lib., VA\
Men ahead of their time wrestle with the fabric of the universe. Flaming's debut ushers us into a mystifying world, but its intriguing premise and inherent mystery are impossible to resist. Marrying poetic prose with hints of steampunk aesthetics to an arcane, time-wrenching plot that includes a healthy dose of wistful romance, the author unleashes an absorbing adventure about warring scientists, lost princesses and the genius who created modern New York City. In the present day, an aged narrator describes his dogged research into the collision of two unlikely characters. His confession hints at narrative ambiguity ("Telling the story is easy. It's just deciding which parts to include, finding a space to fit them all in, that gives me trouble"), but the author's execution is sure-footed. The story within takes readers back to the turn of the century, as Peter Force arrives in Manhattan just in time to start digging the city's newfangled subway system. Through his young protagonist's eyes, Flaming captures a city on the cusp of technological revolution, as electricity, airships and other marvels make all futures seem possible. Peter's work is interrupted by Cheri-Anne Toledo, refugee from a mythical Midwestern kingdom founded by a minor European royal. She blames her sudden appearance on the misfire of a device created by Nicola Tesla, the acclaimed "Sorcerer of Electricity," which has sent her quite astray. The fantastic story line that follows revolves around the heated rivalry between Tesla and his rival, genius/patent thief Thomas Edison, who is being backed here by robber baron J.P. Morgan. "Villainy is a complicated thing, Miss Toledo," Morgan says, revealing a plot to gamble againstthe future. Though not as lush as Kurt Andersen's Heyday (2007), Flaming's wildly inventive fantasy is more fun to read and begs to be followed to its hurtling, heart-rending end. A marvelous fable about the worlds beneath our feet and the conspiracies that turn our heads.
"Todd McClaren gives a soft-spoken, carefully navigated reading that allows the author's beautiful descriptions to woo the listener with their simplicity." AudioFile