After reading Ellen Larson's mystery The Hatch and Brood of Time, I saw that she also writes science fiction. Checked NetGalley to see if they offered anything else by Larson and found In Retrospect.
Merit Rafi is the only Forensic Retrospector left after the Oku/Rasakan war. An Oku patriot, Merit fought in the war, and even after defeat, continued with the Resistance. Captured with the small band of remaining Resistance fighters, Merit faces execution, but at the last minute, the Rasakans realize she is a Retrospector.
Merit is "rehabilitated," but continues to hate the Rasakans who want the Oku technology of time-travel. Merit, the only Retrospector left, is of tremendous value to them.
General Zane, the commander of Oku forces, surrendered to the Rasakans and negotiated a peace. When he is murdered, the Rasakan authorities summon Merit to perform a Forensic Retrospection to discover his murderer. Merit resists. She blames Zane for the destruction of the Oku, and would have gladly killed him herself, but faced with the threat of retaliation on her family, Merit is forced to comply.
Like her "rehabilitation," however, her agreement to travel back in time and discover who killed General Zane has caveats. Her agreement is superficial, and Merit continues an internal debate of whether or not she will actually perform the Retrospection.
Frequent flash-backs develop the characters. We learn of Merit's childhood and youth, are introduced to characters like the Prioress, Lena, and Eric, get a glimpse of Oku society before the war, and follow Merit in her devotion to the Oku cause.
This is a novel about individuals, motives, and relationships, about trust and betrayal. The characters drive the novel, and the time-travel element, while crucial, does not dominate. Of course, the twist is evident after you've read the whole novel, but you have to get there step by step.
I often read time-travel novels, and I've mentioned before that this is a difficult plot to pull off. Most novels with the time-travel proposition fail to make me believe. Sometimes the attempts to explain how time-travel works and its possible effects--only create more holes in the theory. Larson keeps the details to a minimum and makes it work!
Science Fiction/Mystery. 2013. Print length: 268 pages.