Drew has quit his job and moved in with his grandmother to take care of her in her final days. In her will, she leaves him the house; on her deathbed, she leaves him her memoir and a warning: Keep an eye out for Victor. Who Victor is, she doesn’t know. When or even if Drew would meet him, she does’t know. She dies that night, unable to answer any questions and leaving Drew to mourn her passing and read the story of his grandmother’s remarkable life.
Claudia was a reporter, and a good one. By being in the right place at the right time, by bumping into and getting to know the right people, she managed to climb through the ranks in a heavily male dominated field, fighting sexism and brutal infighting, managing to become a well known and well respected figure. From Vietnam to the Apollo-Soyuz mission, Claudia was everywhere and then some. But parts of her life were never on camera, like her whirlwind romance with Arthur Brittany and the mysterious group of people known as Prophets.
Orphaned at a young age, Drew was taken in by his grandmother. She was both a parent and a friend, and when she died she left him his mother’s not-inconsiderable share of her stocks and bonds. Drew is now comfortable enough that he doesn’t need to worry about looking for a job, and — thanks to his grandmother — he also has a house to live in. All in all, Drew is a nice guy. Unfortunately, that’s really all I’m able to say about him as his personality takes a back seat to his grandmother’s story.
Tom, Drew’s suitor, is — in Drew’s opinion — an honest and sincere man. He doesn’t care for fancy clothes and is both considerate of and compassionate towards Drew as he deals with his grandmother’s death and the inconvenient visions of a terrible future that always seem to occur when Drew and Tom are trying to hook up. First during a blowjob, then during a kiss; it’s always something keeping them apart, but Tom is patient and willing to give Drew time to heal. Not knowing of the visions, he assumes Drew is still mourning, and he’s both kind enough to wait, and interested enough to keep coming back.
The great romance in this book is actually Claudia’s. In the early 1970s, she is sent by her boss to find the identity of a man who may well be the doppelganger of her boss’ old teacher or, more unlikely, the same man — which isn’t possible, as years and a war have passed and the man doesn’t seem to have aged a day. Claudia manages to track down the mysterious Arthur only to end up falling in love with him. His intelligence, his charm, their shared passion of knowledge and learning … and then Claudia ends up pregnant. Arthur tells her he cannot stay, that he will not be a part of her new family, and leaves. Claudia is forced to pick up the pieces of her life and continue, finding and falling in love with another man who accepts her daughter as his own.
Victor’s story is introduced in the second third of the book, introducing us to Russian a child raised in poverty, suffering abuse and rape at the hands of his father and indifference and neglect by his mother. School is both his refuge and his joy; he takes delight in learning and his grades are always highest in the class. It isn’t long before someone notices, and when they do, they whisk Victor away from the squalor of his childhood and begin his training.
I won’t get further into the plot, since it’s both a confusing tangle and the saving grace of this story. Claudia’s life is an interesting one and she’s a well-written character. I enjoyed reading her chapters, which is fortunate as they’re roughly half of the book. She’s a proactive character, always moving herself forward, unlike Devon who is a mere witness in his own life.
Devon, the son of the mysterious Arthur, is a young man possessed of mystical gifts. He doesn’t discover these, he’s told about them. And that’s pretty much the fate of Devon in this book. His visions allow him to see things other people can’t, to see a possible future, but the plot in this book is something that happens to Devon, not something he participates in. Even during the end and the climactic scenes, Devon watches as other people do what he could not and in the final confrontation he’s saved by Tom. His relationship with Tom is a brief few scenes in the beginning and then the tentative “let’s date” at the end; other than that, I didn’t see enough between them to really comment on their potential romance.
I think this book tried to be too many things. It’s a mystery and a spy thriller, it’s science fiction with aliens and space ships, while also having a long-lost heir to the English throne, magical prophets, romance, and mysterious cults. It almost works, but … doesn’t quite. It also feels like there are two stories being told — Claudia’s and Victor’s — and Devon is supposed to be the thread holding them together, only Devon doesn’t do much more than exist. I liked Claudia, I liked her story, but there wasn’t enough of Devon to have an opinion on, and the Victor story felt promising, but after the initial buildup, it sort of got thrown aside. And then there was a spaceship? My honest reaction at that line that was put in at the very end on the last page, almost in the last paragraph was “WTF, spaceship?” That’s my lasting impression of this book, I’m afraid. None of the story lines really fit together for me and I’m left confused and disappointed there wasn’t more Claudia.