There’s a point in this book when Max says, “Remember when we used to have fun?” I do. The early books in this series were a lot of fun. Bad things happened. Horrible historical events were encountered. Yet eccentric, prank-playing, anarchic fun was at the centre of St. Mary’s.
This hasn’t been true for a while now. I don’t read a new St Mary’s book with the expectation on spending most of my time grinning, (although there’re always a few points at which I laugh out loud. I figure that Jodi Taylor adds them so I’ll know that their absence in the rest of the book is deliberate). Now, when I pick up a St. Mary’s book, I know that I’m in for trauma and tears and damn but Jodi Taylor is excellent at it.
I’m attached to the staff at St. Mary’s. They’re nice people. Odd, slightly broken, often deeply repressed people but I like them. I want good things to happen to them, perhaps because I understand, as they do, that happiness is not what they’ve signed up for.
“And The Rest Is History” is the most traumatic tale yet. The events the St. Mary’s historians visit are bloody, violent and described in enough detail to make you want to look away and with enough passion to keep your eyes locked on what’s happening. We see battles in Saxon-soon-to-be-Norman England. We are subjected to the barbarity of the papal-sponsored “you’re forgiven for whatever you do to the Heathens” sack of Constantinople by the Christian Crusader rabble in 1204.
Yet these are not the worst parts. The worst parts are what happens to the people from St Mary’s. Jodi Taylor put them and me through an emotional hell and made me feel every moment of pain, despair, sorrow, guilt and grief.
Do I remember when we used to have a good time at St. Mary’s? I do. And I enjoyed it. And then the series grew up and became something touched with a deep understanding of what we fear and what we love and how closely linked the two are.
This is not a book I could read in public. People would look at my face and wonder what terrible thing had happened to me to explain that wet eyes and stricken expression and all I’d be able to say was, “Jodi Taylor did this to me.”
The worst part is, she did it so well, I know I’ll be back for more.