A Tale of Two Centuries
By Rachel Harris
August 6, 2013
Ages 12 and up
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Reviewed: Ebook/ARC from Publisher
A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES by Rachel Harris is the perfect escape novel for fans of time travel, swoon-worthy romance, brilliant plotting… and just about everything else that makes for an amazing story. In this second installment in her Super Sweet series about time traveling teens, Rachel has managed to take everything good about the first book, My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, and with it she has woven an even more romantic and well-fleshed out story. I’ll be honest: I loved this book and the characters, Alessandra and Austin, so much that the following review will likely be filled with endless gushing and praise.
While My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century was a whimsically fun tale about the adventures of a 21st Century teen in 16th Century Renaissance Italy, A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES offers a whole new level of time traveling adventures by bringing the 16th Century, Alessandra (aka “Less”), to 21st Century Los Angeles. Pardon the pun, but in this case, “Less” is MORE. More fun than witnessing a modern day teen experience the past is watching a young girl from an earlier time discovering the highly unusual, and oftentimes alarming, modern day world. Few things are more fun than following along with Less as she rides in a taxi for the first time, uses seemingly mundane things such as zippers or… (a’hem)… undergarments… for the very first time or accustoming herself to our modern day language and slang. All her various discoveries were more hilarious and more exhilarating than I had imagined. I found myself even more surprised and entertained by Less’s modern day discoveries than all of Cat’s snarky escapades in the 16th Century – and that’s saying a lot if you’ve read my review of the first book!
…Like I said, “Less” is MORE.
How would a 16th Century girl react if she was forced to face the everyday troubles of a modern teenage girl? A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES has your answer… The obvious care that Rachel took in making the telling of her magical story completely believable is astounding. From the minutest descriptive detail to every word that is spoken – ranging from the feeling of a surf board skimming on the waves to Alessandra’s gradual progression toward a more modern way of speaking – albeit her words are understandably stilted, the slang coming with much difficulty and hesitation. I could only imagine how hard it was to make Alessandra sound like an authentic girl from the past – but Rachel pulls this off with much success! Also, now I am not entirely convinced that Rachel has never before been surfing… 😉
First and foremost, A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES is a romance; a wonderful, sweeping, swoontastic romance of the highest caliber to be found in YA fiction. To make a good romance, you need two likable main characters that readers can relate to. Who knew that we could find that in a prim and proper Renaissance girl? While Cat is reserved and steadfast in her ways, decked out in her unbreakable armor of snark and sass, Alessandra is reserved and timid, clothed head to toe in layer upon layer of tradition and presumed expectations. Yet buried underneath all those layers is a triumphant songbird who longs to escape her prison. The more assertive and independent “Less” is coaxed out thanks to the roguishly charming Austin. Through clever dialogue, a thrilling series of interactions and “bucket list” worthy experiences/lessons and an unfortunate familial back-story, we learn that this bad boy is much more than he initially appears. Austin is a character that can I already see many future readers crushing on in droves. If I were younger, I would be deeply under his spell… (Ah, who am I kidding, I already am under his spell. Go #Austin!)
I think one of my absolute favorite things about A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES is Alessandra’s uncanny observational skills and the direction they take her in the story. Rare is it that we find a female protagonist who, while certainly “lost” on so many levels, has such a clear head on her shoulders. I think this is most likely due to the period she comes from, when women were seen and not heard, giving her plenty of time to develop such skills.
Although coming from another time and place, Alessandra exemplifies a fear that many teenagers have today: the fear that we will never amount to anything in life. This fear is present throughout the novel, forcing the astute reader to ask the question: What makes a life “complete”? Though I stress that A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES is more “fun” than “insightful”, the book ends on a brilliant note that brings this question full circle.
I would recommend A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES to anyone who enjoys a good romance and even better fiction. Not since I read Bid Time Return (more commonly known as Somewhere in Time) by Richard Matheson have I been so swept away by the occurrence of true love across space and time. With her writing skills as honed as they are already, I eagerly await the next installment in this series.
Standing Ovation, Rachel, for both you and Less.