Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
Ring Fold by Scott Swisher is a fun time-traveling adventure starring a very strong female protagonist in Jordan and an interesting supporting cast including Rocco, Steffi, and Jacob.
The book is fun, well-researched, and well-written.
The story starts us off in a post-apocalyptic world that saw a series of earthquakes both literally and figuratively shake up the world. Amid this, it is discovered that several people are blessed (or cursed) with a special blood type that allows them to survive time travel—something the governments of the world and scientists find tantalizing. They seem to have brutally experimented on several subjects in an attempt to take and replicate their blood. Fearing this and fearing for their lives and safety, some of the gifted sent their kids to separate times in an effort to protect them. Jordan, a seemingly dying woman with this gift, is recruited by the mysterious Jacob and sent through time to recover four of these gifted people.
And so the adventure begins...
Although the plot is very similar to other stories, movies, and books we've gone through (like Season of the Swords by Domenic Melillo and Escaping the Future by Adam Cozier), the characters do make this book pretty extra special with their uniqueness. First of all, Jordan is a solid protagonist. She is strong, clever, and yet vulnerable. She is caring, compassionate, and conscientious without being a perfect angel or overly “soft.” In fact, “firm” and “staunch” might be good adjectives to describe Jordan.
What's a little concerning about her character is how trusting and naive she can be. She doesn't really know what's really going on most of the time, which you might expect from a protagonist like this (not too dissimilar from Neo from The Matrix in a sense), but it's worrisome how little she stops to question things. For example, Jacob is constantly acting suspicious, shady, and sketchy, but Jordan just goes with whatever Jacob says, rarely questioning him. Yes, Jacob is charming and seems to be worthy of trust in that he knows what's going on, but would you really just drop what you were doing and follow Prince Charming into one timeline and then the next? Actually, scratch that, you probably would.
Jordan comes armed with a fiery, spunky personality and a tremendous skill-set. She essentially learns kung-fu (or krav maga) the same way Neo did—by having it implanted into her. She's extremely proficient with weapons and fighting styles. Also, unlike some of the other characters, she seems almost perfectly immune to the effects of time-travel.
Some of the best parts of this book are the side characters. Rocco is essentially Fonz from Happy Days--the coolest, most untouchable cat in town—an alpha-male in a biker jacket with perfectly greased-up hair. He is a product of his time. There's also Steffi, a ridiculously gorgeous blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl whose adventurous nature and social skills greatly complement Jordan's.
There are times when Steffi has great ideas at solving a problem and times when Rocco has great ideas at solving a problem. Everyone has their time to shine—their chance in the spotlight. That's a very good thing we like to see in a book.
There's also Carissa, who is supposed to be the most relatable character to Millennials and Generation Z. Her whole section seems to be a very thinly veiled social commentary about how the newer generation spends too much time on their smartphones and using technology rather than interacting socially. Even Steffi, the most socially-inclined character in the book, has problems connecting with Carissa initially due to this. Carissa also has her moments.
Almost all of these side-characters have their obnoxious, over-played, over-acted moments, and it's bearable. It's not the biggest deal. It does sometimes make them seem comical or like cartoon characters. Only Steffi seems immune to this. She actually seems real most of the time.
These protagonists are effectively opposed by the aptly-named Loretta Wretch. Loretta is essentially the primary antagonist of the novel, at least having the most direct interactions with the heroes. She is the equivalent to Agent Orange from ICDA by Andrew Zellgert or Agent Kruger from Elysium. She is a roguish and ruthless agent of the organization hunting down the Ring. She is an effective enough villain.
The pacing does seem to slow down and we get some speed bumps along the road. Yes, we experience this even when flying from timeline to timeline. There are also times when the scenes just feel like they're out of old timepiece films. Certain songs and music are often used to give you the feeling that you're in a certain time, lyrics and all. Now, we have to admit, every single time we've seen song lyrics featured in a book this year, it has come across as contrived and cringy. It does help that some of the characters respond to this songs with nostalgia as they come from their time periods, so that saves it a bit.
At the same time, you do come to like the characters enough to care about their adventures from place to place and timeline to timeline.
Speaking on that, though, it is very admirable the amount of research that went in to making all of these timelines in all these direct time periods seem authentic.
All in all, this is a novel worth checking out.
You can find it on Amazon!