Drew Langly thought his life was nothing more complicated than driving his passengers from Point A to Point B. Then, a man mysteriously disappears right before his eyes…and later somehow materializes in the backseat of Drew’s car. The stranger calls himself Colby and insists not only that he will do everything in his power to protect Drew, but that he loves Drew as well. Adding to the mystery, an older man named Dodge claims to be Drew and Colby’s “guide” and that he can help restore some memories that Drew has lost. In his heart, Drew feels like he can trust Colby. The guide, Dodge, however, is another story. When Drew finally gets his memories back, slivers of the truth shake free. Colby and Drew have the ability to “jump” across space and time with the help of a glowing crystal.
It turns out there there are no less than five other pairs of so-called travelers that have been mystically selected by the special crystals. With these crystals, these travelers can jump through the fabric of time and the intent was to help mankind. But someone has been methodically corrupting both the travelers and the sentient crystals for their own empowerment. By the time all six pairs of travelers meet, there may not be enough time to reverse all the evil that has been inflicted on the world…or even enough time to stop themselves from falling prey to even more danger.
Amos Ridge is a contemporary, urban fantasy book that is the multi-author Beyond the Realm: Remember collection. Each book is a standalone set in it’s own world, and they appear to all follow the same prompt of “There is no time: Remember… Conceptually, I was intrigued by the idea of multiple authors building a story around the same line.
Personally, I did not get much enjoyment from this story, however. My biggest critiques are the apparent breakdowns in continuity and the lack of meaningful development. Case in point, early on, another “guide” like character explicitly states that “We still haven’t been able to figure out what those carvings [on the walls of the caves where the magic traveling crystals were found] mean or who made them.” For the rest of the book, I felt like it was a constant volley between: 1) these crystals are inanimate tools for interdimensional/time travel and 2) these crystals are sentient beings with the natural ability for interdimensional/time travel. I never understood if the crystals were a naturally occurring species in this world, or a purpose-built object. The way the crystals are described in the prose further befuddled the point. There were several chapters where the crystals are used like a USB drive on a computer that stored “files” and played back “video.” But there were also chapters where the crystals were “happy” or “weakened.” For a book that bases all of its action around a cast of human characters being able to harness the powers in these crystals, it was pretty stunning that this flip-flopping on the very nature of the crystals was present.
I also felt that the human characters were…well, rather reactionary because they are, to be blunt, somewhat gullible. Fool me once, as they say. The initial set up went a long way towards building some thriller-type excitement. But then when things go bad, the same “but can I really trust you” epiphany seems to replay with every successive pair of travelers that appears. And it gets recycled even more with further supporting characters claiming to be able to help Drew and Colby and any others use the crystals for good (but are you really going to help us use the crystals for good?).
There are some romance elements to the story. Drew and Colby are an established couple and I’m a sucker of an amnesia trope (bonus points for not using a bonk to the head to restore the lost memories). I thought Colby was clearly shown to be the demonstrative partner. He constantly tells Drew that he loves him and will stop at nothing to protect him. This was a touch odd when it was also trotted out in that classic dilemma of “would you sacrifice your lover to save the literal entire rest of existence” and no one seems to comment on Colby’s priorities. Mostly, Colby just seems like he’s centered his existence around Drew. So, when Drew has to physically check a fellow traveler for damage after being literally blown off his feet and Colby reacts with off-the-charts internal jealousy, his constant “I love you, Baby” comments to Drew took on a slightly more unsavory aspect for me.
All in all, the story felt noticeably unpolished to me. The inconsistencies in what the crystals are, who can use them, and even just how much damage the bad guy was actually doing was unclear (the MCs were relaying that he destroyed entire worlds and all that, but we never see him do more than be a colossal jerk to a handful of people). For me, the lack of clarity throughout was a major stumbling block. Instead of enjoying a cleverly constructed thriller, I was constantly checking why characters were saying or doing contradictory things regarding the crystals and forever wondering who, if any, of the new characters were actually “good guys.”