By the time a series is five books deep, a question is bound to crop up as to whether it can do anything new, or whether it will be a retread of all that came before. Admittedly, this was less of a concern going into Hayley Reese Chow’s Time’s Orphan, following the first novel and novella in the Odriel’s Heirs series, Odriel’s Heirs (click here for a review) and Burning Shadows (and I have a review here) featuring one protagonist, and the second novel and novella, Idriel’s Children (I have a review here) and Night of Ash (you guessed it; another review right here) featuring another protagonist a generation later. However, while I was expecting some differences to the previous books, I wasn’t prepared for Time’s Orphan to be as different as it is.
This novel is still a young adult fantasy tale starring a teenaged female lead character, and it is still set in the world of Okarria. It still features familiar characters—yes, even Shad the talking cat, who after this book is probably the series MVP—and at its core, Time’s Orphan is still a coming of age tale. Where Odriel’s Heirs starred Dragon Heir Kaia and Idriel’s Children jumped forward to focus on her daughter, Shadow Heir Aza, the third novel only jumps forward by about ten or so years to focus on seventeen-year-old Time Heir Emara. More than a coming of age tale, this is a story about self-discovery and acceptance, and also a story about found family.
As the blurb says, “unfortunately, Time Heirs have a history of getting killed,” and it is for this reason that these Heirs have always been the least explored in the Odriel’s Heirs series. It is also the reason that our hero Emara was hidden away from a young age with her heritage a secret she only discovers through the book’s events, and taught throughout her life that as one of “Odriel’s Blessed,” her power is a curse, not a gift. That she needs to hide it for her own safety, and the safety of those around her. Rather than being raised with the Heir title of the previous protagonists, training for the day she must use her powers, Emara must not only learn who she is and her role within Okarria, but she must learn to accept it. She must learn to accept that she spent most of her life in hiding, rather than defending the world. With the Time Heirs’ history of dying, she is alone in the world, and must also accept that family doesn’t always mean blood.
The themes in Idriel’s Children are more resonant than those in Odriel’s Heirs, and the aforementioned themes are more resonant than they were in the last book. In many ways, Time’s Orphan represents an evolution from the previous novels. A huge part of its success rests in the writing of Emara, a character who is beautifully formed on the page. She is a character the reader can’t help but feel for, and her tale of growth is beautifully written. The characters supporting her story are all wonderful, regardless of whether they’re new to the world, or ones who have been featured many times. Without discussing spoilers, Shad, particularly, has a strong arc this time, as readers learn more about his story.
While characters and themes are important facets of any story, given Time’s Orphan is a fantasy story, so too are its fantastical elements. Each book in the series has expanded Okarria’s mythology further, building upon what started as a nuanced world. New areas are explored, with new creatures to populate it. The Time Heir adds new facets to the fantasy, with Emara’s powers ranging from healing to time travel, which is integral to the book’s plot.
With time travel being a key component of Time’s Orphan, it adds an extra layer to the novel’s plot. And with this extra layer comes additional complexity, which makes the book a little trickier to follow than the previous Odriel’s Heir titles. While it isn’t particularly difficult to parse, it is worth noting the book is aimed at readers between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. Younger readers may struggle slightly with these elements, but most everyone else will be able to enjoy the ride. Through its estimated 282 pages on Kindle (at the time of writing, I don’t have a paperback page count, and this Kindle estimate appears to be an exaggeration—on my eReader, it’s about the length of Odriel’s Heirs, which is 198 pages in paperback), Chow weaves an intricate plot that continues the darkness from Idriel’s Children. The story starts in the thick of the action, showing the brutality of the world. As Emara learns about her power, the plot slows down, moving slower than the previous books. This works perfectly for the story, with the pace picking up when it needs to. This story feels like a finale (something confirmed in the book’s backmatter); a story of epic proportions that brings a wonderful sense of finality.
Each book in the series has featured beautiful prose, and Chow has truly outdone herself with this finale. It is the most lyrical of all books, flowing together beautifully. Stylistically, it is closest to the first novel, but where that book’s prose risked turning away younger readers with its difficulty, Time’s Orphan’s feels as though it will be perfectly accessible to them. The writing is perfectly digestible as it captures the beauty—and the darkness—inherent in the novel.
Although this is the final book in the Odriel’s Heirs series (not noted on the cover, but mentioned in the Amazon listing), once again, it stands on its own. The other books are in no way required reading to enjoy this. If you’ve read the four preceding books, it will pay off your commitment in spades, however, this book working so well on its own is a testament to the author’s writing.
Time’s Orphan is the crowning achievement in the Odriel’s Heirs series. Each book has been fantastic, but Chow has truly saved the best for last. A personal story with an intricate plot and stellar writing. I’ll miss the world of Okarria, and would love to see it revisited in another series. But if not, I’m looking forward to seeing what the author does next.
She focused on the faces now, the yanaa bringing the nightmare of sensations to maddening levels. Then, with every muscle in her being, she swirled it all to her like an incorporeal cloak. She hugged it to her as if it were just another kind of pain, her muscles straining as she bound it with her yanaa, packing it into the smallest ball she could muster and shutting it into the farthest corner of her mind. Away, away, down, down, down into the yanaa’s abyss deep within her.Time’s Orphan, Chapter Twenty-Three: “Bellaphia”
Time’s Orphan was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Time’s Orphan is available in paperback, and on Kindle, exclusive to Amazon).
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Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.Time’s Orphan (Odriel’s Heirs Book 3)