Gareth Quentin fell into a hole and ended up in another world where the timeline was a few years behind his own but where the technology was far more advanced. Ursula Newis also found a way between worlds, coming from Gareth’s ‘new world’ to his original world or the ‘old world’. While Gareth seeks to improve the lives of people in the old world by using what he’s learned, Ursula seeks only to improve her own fortunes and will stop at nothing to help her increase her wealth. When the two cross paths, Gareth and Ursula are pitted against each other and Gareth must figure out what lengths he will go to in order to protect not only his family but his whole world.
‘Either End Of The Tunnel’ is set in the late nineteenth and first part of the twentieth century in a Britain where the great railways are under development and the age of steam is at its peak. It’s a great time to set a novel like this, where fans of steampunk will be engaged, alternate history gets a look in and with travel between worlds thrown in there should be plenty for any fantasy fan. It also brings in elements of crime with a series of murders so there’s a good bit of genre-mixing going on.
Unfortunately, despite having great potential, it didn’t quite meet my expectations and, in general, I think it could do with a good hard edit. The story jumps between a few different points of view. There’s Gareth and Ursula, who I’ve mentioned in the synopsis, then Brunella and Edwin who are relatives of Gareth, then a few other characters that seem to have vague associations with Gareth and Ursula. I’m ok with having the different viewpoints and jumping between characters to tell the story can work really well, just take a look at how popular George R.R. Martin’s books are these days! However, as well as jumping between characters for each chapter, the story also kept jumping around in time. It was very difficult to tell what time you were in during any given chapter because the characters were often the same and the settings were very similar and there weren’t all that many years between the events we were following. Finally, these elements were located in two separate but not vastly different worlds and that just took it a step too far. I found it incredibly difficult to follow what was happening when and where and this took away from a plot that definitely had potential.
I certainly didn’t hate ‘Either End Of The Tunnel’ and there are plenty of little bits to enjoy but, as a whole, it just didn’t work for me. I think that the character development needed some work so that the voices of each chapter were different enough that you could easily figure out who was telling that part of the story. I think that some of the jumping around in time was unnecessary and didn’t slowly reveal elements of the plot that needed to be kept secret until those points, so a more linear plot might have worked better.
I’d probably give this a 3 star out of 5 rating if I was feeling generous. I liked it, but certainly didn’t love it. I finished it but was kind of glad that it was done. I thought that some of the ideas were great, just not carried through to their full potential. It’s a first novel, so I’ll not dismiss Battley just yet, but I think she has some work to do to keep me interested in the next book.
(pub: Fearneleaf Books, 2015. 344 page paperback. Price: £ 8.58 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-99322-360-0. ebook price: £ 1.99 (UK))