Until the End of Time: The Chariot by Syd McGinley – review

Rating: 6.5/10 ★★★★★★½☆☆☆ Title: Until the End of Time: The Chariot
Author: Syd McGinley
Genre: fantasy, historical romance
URL: At Torquere
Price: US $2.49
Other Information/warnings: death, explicit m/m
Doomed by a deal with Hades, Cyran searches for his lost love Ximen across the centuries. It seems they’re destined never to meet again, through Roman adventures and Celtic times, all the way to the present day.

My review:
Reincarnation is a beguiling idea (and one I enjoy using in my own writing, because what’s not to love about the idea of lovers finding each other in successive lives), and it’s used effectively and with some originality here. The premise with a playful god, Hades, is clever and cutely set up.

The positive side of this plot device is exploring attitudes to homosexuality throughout different historical periods, and how the lovers try, and mostly fail, to overcome impediments to being openly together. The negative side is that the author doesn’t always have a particularly good ear for historically authentic dialogue, and the interval in early Christian Britain is particularly poor from that point of view (though I liked the use of authentic settings and ideas.)

This short novella is likeable, if a bit breathless. Often sad (inevitably, since the lovers find each other but then must die so many times), it’s relieved by not dwelling overlong in each interval, and moving swiftly through the more painful episodes. The last sequence in modern Las Vegas had some good observations about the characters’ experiences and the development of society’s attitudes to gays, even if the plot was a bit…hmmm, not credible, shall we say (and is it even fair to gripe about that in a fantasy.)

It’s a tad let down by execution – the sex is skirted over with simple descriptions of acts and little sensory information, and we’re not often given much environmental setting either. As we rush from one historical period to another, each potentially so fascinating, I wished we could pause and be shown around more (even to the extent of properly making clear who is speaking to whom at times.) It’s a novella desperately in need of being expanded properly to novel length, with a more leisurely exploration of period and people. As is becoming, irritatingly, the usual case with Torquere, the editing is sloppy. However, at a mere $2.49, it’s good value, better than average for this genre, and entertaining enough. Not exactly a classic, but may leave you thinking about things, and has enough of an emotional punch not to be dismissed as fluff.