Invictus by Ryan Graudin was billed to me as a time-traveling heist. Guys, I love heists. Did you know that Ocean's Eleven is my favorite movie? Even better, this book is a standalone novel. That means that there is a complete story within these pages. Once I close the book, I can fully digest the story in its entirety and feel whatever emotions I feel, without wondering about cliffhangers or "what-ifs" in sequels. And friends, I absolutely loved Invictus. Read on for my full review!
Time flies when you're plundering history.
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.
But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.
I feel that I can best describe Invictus as a blend of science fiction and historical fiction. It definitely leans more towards the former since there is time traveling technology involved to arrive at various points in history. But when we experience those moments in the past, they are described with precision and detailed accuracy that transports the reader as well: a ball at Versailles during Marie Antoinette's rule, the sinking of the Titanic, the burning of the great library of Alexandria.
Honestly, my first thought while reading Invictus was, "Why haven't I read anything else by Ryan Graudin?!" Seriously, this author is an amazing writer. Both her action sequences and dialogue are well executed. This can only be achieved if the characters performing the action and speaking the words are well rounded enough so that the reader experiences these moments with that added character dimension. I believe that Graudin succeeds here because she focuses on a small group of characters and allows their character development to play off of each other. Invictus reminds me a lot of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows duology- one of my favorites series, by the way- in the way that the book develops each core character and invites the reader to become emotionally invested in each one. If I were to bump into Far, Imogen, Gram, or Priya on a New York City street (c'mon, entertain me here), I would recognize them immediately.
The only thing that threw me off, for which I ultimately deducted one star, was the suddenness by which the main source of conflict was revealed. It was explained in an overly complicated way that threw, in my opinion, and unnecessary additional science-fictionI didn't think it was a strong enough "problem" to interrupt Farway's intrepid time-traveling crew's mojo, and the real consequences of this conflict were introduced far too late into the book. element to the plot.
It's done to make the most out of our attachment to the characters. But I resented the way the book tried to intentionally steer my emotions towards one direction or the other. Good thing I desperately loved the characters enough to appreciate how the story came together. For some, Invictus may be a bit cheesy. It's a story of friendship and love and fate. For others- particularly those who easily grow attached to fictional characters (I include myself in this bucket)- Invictus will pull at their heartstrings and remain an enduring testament to the power of faith and resilience.
I rate Invictus 4/5 stars.