I am a self-proclaimed Barbara Hambly fan-girl. Hell, the entirety reason this blog exists is since of Barbara Hambly and The Windrose Chronicles.

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Despite this fact, I have not also come nearby to reading all there is the Barbara Hambly. This is in part because she prolific (and has a ton of publications out there) and because I like to conserve her work for special occasions.

Recently ns went ~ above a expedition to Japan and also decided the it was the perfect time to load a couple of books that i was conserving for a one-of-a-kind occasion. Naturally, ns packed a Barbara Hambly book: The Time that the Dark.

Of every the Barbara Hambly publications I very own (but haven’t yet read), ns was many excited around this one. The cover—a somber feather mage holding a beer and eating chips in a 1980s kitchen—is the perfect balance that kitsch and also earnestness. Far better yet, it is storage of my favorite series of hers, The Windrose Chronicles, which additionally involves world-hopping magicians.


*

Ah, I already miss it.


So it was with glee when I lastly tucked right into The Time that the Dark, late at night in the rooftop onsen of the impeccable Oniyama hotel in Beppu, Japan.

It starts hard. A woman is dreaming a horrible dream thick with brewing doom. As the moment pass, she begins to feel prefer it’s no a dream at all—it’s a glimpse elsewhere.

By day this mrs is Gil, a serious scholastic on the phd track that has devoted her whole life to her passion for scholarship and also medieval history.

By night, well, she keeps dreaming, though the knowledge that her desires are real grows in certainty until Ingold—a male from her dreams—appears, flesh and also blood, in she living room.

He confirms that her dreams were in reality quite real and also explains the in his human being they’re under siege native a powerful primordial enemy: the Dark Ones. He asks her help. This is wherein things could have obtained dicey, but Ingold understands she limitations and merely asks where surrounding he can hunker down for a few days while he bides his time. Gil points that in a direction and offers to supply supplies.

Rudy is a biker and also a drifter, though he doesn’t put lot stock in the hard-assed persona the his peers. Deep under he’s one artist, hoping one day to make money native something various other than painting flames top top the sides of trucks. After ~ a beer-run gone wrong he end up in ~ the hiding spot Gil suggests for Ingold.

Invariably something go wrong, and also Rudy, Gil, and also Ingold all finish up back in Ingold’s world. This wouldn’t be such a huge deal if Ingold could merely shuttle Rudy and Gil ago to Earth, however for reasons I don’t treatment to provide away, that cannot. Our protagonists have to stick roughly as this surprising new world crumples under the onslaught of the Dark.

This is essentially the whole of the over-arching plot. Rudy and Gil want to walk home but (at least for the time being) cannot, and also so they need to adapt to their brand-new world also as the destroyed. Ingold, in addition to trying to send Rudy and Gil home, has his own plot: he need to keep the heir come the throne safe.

If ns being honest—and i hope friend realize that I’m constantly honest if i’m willing to say this about a book written through my favourite author—the plot is thin. The Dark Ones space an unknown evil. Though no invincible, castle quite difficult to kill, spray acid as soon as they are killed, and also exist in such high numbers that killing them doesn’t feel favor a triumph. For the totality of the story the characters are to run for your lives and getting eliminated off every action of the way.

The lack of intrigue is a bummer indigenous a story-telling perspective and also the heaviness that the absence of noticeable hope made The Time that the Dark a bit of a difficult read.

Barbara Hambly is unbelievable with her characterization, though, so that is whereby I had hoped—expected, even—for points to turn around. She once made an totally unrepentant vampire sympathetic! In The Time the the Dark we’ve acquired a gibberish yet you re welcome old wizard and also two fishes the end of water. Ns genuinely assumed an emotional plot would fill in the gaps.

Sadly, i was wrong. Gil and Rudy execute adapt, and we view them adapting, but it felt north to me. We never really see Gil in her own world, so i don’t know if she volunteering for a an overwhelming job on, like, her 2nd day in this crazy brand-new world is within her character, a coping mechanism, or a sure authorize that something brand-new has been shaken loosened in her.

And, an ext than that, Gil is (dare i say it?) a small too strong. No in the “I’m going come fight everyone all the time” way, but in the seriously, no one has actually a well that deep to offer from way.

Seriously. She’s suck from she world, her carefully honed life the she claims is every she’s ever before wanted, and is put somewhere else and told “eh, we might not have the ability to get you back.” If that ar were ~ above the planet as we understand it, it would still it is in a destructive blow, but this is so lot worse. One human alone deserve to send she home, and, well, lock in a human being where the typical life span doesn’t stretch far into the future. To she it would seem very likely the she’s stuck, stranded forever in this post-apocalyptic hellscape that a human being she doesn’t also understand—if she survives. And also again, not many world are surviving.

On peak of the psychological burden that her accidental transportation, yes sir the physical. Gil is an American woman, born and raised in California through a wealthy family. She a phd student. She had actually probably never ever experienced true hunger, or, hell, also food insecurity. She’d most likely never to be cold for days top top end. She’d more than likely never to be denied even a modicum the privacy. She’d more than likely never been put in an honest position wherein her actions would recognize whether someone lives or dies. She’d most likely never seen anyone eliminated or die. She’d virtually certainly never ever walked past bloating, rotting corpses and bloody, sinuous tangles that bone.

Of course, in a dying medieval world, she experiences all of these things.

I’m no saying the no one would certainly survive, however I sincerely doubt anyone would certainly survive and also Gil did. Due to the fact that she just sort the ... Rolls through the punches. She gets harder, colder, for sure, but I never ever get any type of sort the hint the she’s mentally strained. Physically, sure. She constantly exhausted, continually hungry, constantly cold. But she never ever so lot as flinches mentally. I acquire that merely existing without believed is a transaction mechanism, but I would intend that coping device to absent in after ~ a couple of days once instinctively she body realizes that it’s either shut down emotionally or die.

Rudy isn’t as solid as Gil. In ~ least, he doesn’t provide endlessly and also selflessly previous the point of reason. He is more prone to cracking under the strain of the world, but, again, just physically. As soon as he’s as well cold, as well hungry, as well tired, he flounders. Otherwise, he’s practically ... Jovial? It’s choose he’s just on an additional road-trip rather than thrust right into the death throws the a human being incomprehensibly removed from his life.

They’re no awful characters by any type of means. If the plot had actually intrigue that attracted me on, they’d most likely be completely serviceable. But the plot didn’t attract me on, so ns needed characters that ns loved, that i felt invest in, that appeared so actual I yearned for your success and also feared for their failure. Largely in part to your blase reaction come world-swapping, though, Gil and Rudy didn’t scrape that itch.

In the end, i think Barbara Hambly realized she mistake and tried to offer Gil and Rudy every an emotional arc, however I nothing think there was nearly enough setup for your closure to feel authentic.

So no the plot not the protagonists yes, really intrigued me, yet ns finished the book. As my Globalization & advance professor provided to to speak “Why dat?”

The basic answer is the beautiful bastard on the cover: Ingold. In many ways he is a trope—the kindhearted yet hard-as-nails misunderstood outcast wizard that will throw everything he has actually away to save the world who disparage him—but, well, who doesn’t love that trope? and also though Ingold is very trope-y, I’d argue that he’s the most arisen character in the book. Ns won’t spoil the details, because, in my opinion, an excellent characterization is all in the details, but there room delightful ideas that Ingold is more than what we see.

Oddly, some tertiary personalities that don’t also get much display time ordered my attention, as well. The arch-bishop Govannin is one badass yet horrible lady. Much like one old Disney villain (think Ursula or Maleficent), she intrigued me. I want to see much more of her; discover her angle. That’s the funny thing—Govannin certainly has a personal plot, because all she wants is power. With civilization collapsing, it might even give her room come grab more power—so lengthy as she no overreach and cause gross instability that’ll acquire her killed. We rarely saw her, but damn, ns was left wanting more.

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So in the end, ns liked, however didn’t love, The Time that the Dark. At the same time, though, it was Barbara Hambly’s an initial novel. A most these concerns feel prefer first-book issues. That also has a decent amount of similarity to The Windrose Chronicles in terms of magic and world. There is no it, would The Windrose Chronicles would be fifty percent as perfect?Probably not.