Over the past year, life has been crazy for Sage and his partner, Gideon, with one near death experience after another. Sage is finally getting a handle on his own magic, as well as a little better understanding of the Brotherhood and their goals. But now they have learned that Sage’s cousin, Freddy, has magic as well, yet know one knows what kind. As the group does more research into the town of Junction’s past, they realize that some notes from a long-ago artist may hold the key to learning more about Freddy’s magic. Even more surprising? Evidence seems to indicate that Sage and Freddy have both somehow traveled to the past and were there when the notes were written.
With some help from his grandmother’s library, Sage manages to find a spell that can take them back to the nineteenth century, fifteen years after Gideon was killed. There they hope to learn more about the artist, his notes, and what is going on with Freddy’s magic. Anson and Gideon join them, as both men want to learn more about Gideon’s murder (though Anson still doesn’t know that his ancestor and modern Gideon are one and the same).
When they arrive in the past, Sage is delighted to connect with his relatives, Winifred and Alfie. Less so to also encounter Uncle Jonathon, given all they know about the man’s actions in the past and how they affected the future. They also meet a creepy French nobleman who seems far too interested in both Freddy and Gideon. As the group spends more time in 19th-century Junction, they begin to unravel their modern day secrets, including learning more about Freddy’s magic and how it connects with some of their recent conflicts. But keeping their true selves hidden isn’t easy, and not everyone they encounter is trustworthy. Not to mention that now that they have arrived in the past, Sage has to somehow figure out how to get them home again. But Sage has Gideon by his side, not to mention family both present and past, and with their help, they just may be able get their answers and find their way home safely.
Fluke and the Frontier Farce is the fourth book in Sam Burns’ fabulous Fantastic Fluke series. I absolutely went crazy for the first book and I have been thrilled that not only has Burns expanded it into a series, but that she has taken this story into such an interesting arc across the books. The adventures here mostly stand alone, but the characters, as well as the big picture conflict, mean these books are best read in order.
So I love a good time travel story and Burns does a wonderful job here crafting this adventure. Part of the fun is the chance to see these long ago family members about which we have heard throughout the series. Winifred and Alfie are just lovely and so accepting, as they quickly end up figuring out what is going on with Sage and Gideon on many levels. We have known Winifred is a powerful mage, but here we get to see her in action. Plus, the far less delightful Jonathon, but it is still interesting to see these characters alive and watch them interacting with Sage and the gang. What I also found so much fun were all the connections between past and present. This version of time travel basically operates under the rule that it already happened, so we know it is going to happen. Essentially that the past can’t be changed, so the story is almost like a puzzle that the characters put together, figuring out what is going on in the past, as well as what moves they should make, based on already knowing what is going to happen in the future. It’s hard to explain, but I found it all delightfully clever how it all connects and comes together and the adventure was just so much fun.
This series has always been about family, as Sage was alone for so long, and suddenly he has found himself surrounded by people who love him — Gideon, Freddy, Fluke, his grandmother. So it is a nice connection to see him encounter his long ago relatives and learn more about these people who inadvertently have impacted his modern life. Especially because we see them form a bond, as well as a sense of love and acceptance. There are also some sweet moments with Fluke, who goes missing and terrifies Sage, as we see how much he and Sage mean to one another. And Fluke meets a friend and it all comes together so adorably.
The only place where I feel like the story doesn’t delve deeply enough is with regard to Gideon and returning to the town where his wife and son still live. Gideon disappeared in his own time and his wife and son never learned what happened to him. It is never addressed how Gideon feels about encountering his wife and child again, both of whom he loved. I feel like this has to have been an emotional subject, but it is barely addressed, even when they meet. And while the blurb suggests that Gideon is torn between Sage and his family, this never really an issue. Not to mention I’m not sure how they could just have Gideon walking around town looking exactly like a man who everyone knows and who has been missing for 15 years. Just being told he was a cousin doesn’t see like it would really fool people, particularly his wife and child. So for all of Burns’ really finely crafted plot, this just seemed like an area that wasn’t addressed enough.
This fourth book really gives us a lot of new information and some revelations that set things up well for the final book. This is such a fun series and this book in particular is so cleverly done. I am really loving these series and can highly recommend it.
P.S. At the end of the book we get a little story from Fluke’s perspective, sharing his adventure during the time he was missing.