Vortex by Julie Cross
Digital Audiobook narrated by Matthew Brown
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on January 15, 2013
Series: Tempest #2
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Young Adult
Length: 358 pages or 12 hours, 27 minutes
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Jackson Meyer has thrown himself into his role as an agent for Tempest, the shadowy division of the CIA that handles all time-travel-related threats. Despite his heartbreak at losing the love of his life, Jackson has proved himself to be an excellent agent. However, after an accidental run in with Holly—the girl he altered history to save—Jackson is once again reminded of what he's lost. And when Eyewall, an opposing division of the CIA, emerges, Jackson and his fellow agents not only find themselves under attack, but Jackson begins to discover that the world around him has changed and someone knows about his erased relationship with Holly, putting both their lives at risk all over again.
It’s been a couple years since I read Tempest, but the story pulled me in again so quickly. I have never felt overwhelmed by all the information she gives about the mechanics of time travel, and I never feel like the romance really takes over the story.
Also? This is what should be a New Adult book – a book where the story revolves around a protagonist who is out of high school, but newly into college or embarking on a career. It feels so perfectly what I want New Adult to be. … But that’s an aside.
Now that I have all the positivity out of the way, I’m going to have to hammer down on Vortex because stuff got messy. While I appreciate the balance in some ways, Vortex got really explainy in ways Tempest did not… and there was no need for it. Explanations about Jackson’s ability abounded, popping up every time a new character was in the mix. I felt like the timeline was always shifting, and it bothered me. Where the first book kept to its rules very well, not allowing Jackson to time travel and change things without consequences… Vortex was extremely indulgent. A lot of things lined up in such a convenient way.
Then, there’s our new (and transformed) cast of characters. Holly Flynn and Adam Silverman still appear, but their characters have changed a lot, and because of them… I feel like the story isn’t allowed to take on a life of its own. I expect Jackson to still have romantic feelings about Holly, but this would have been a stronger story if it had all moved on, even if Jackson himself hadn’t. We also have the introduction of Jenny and Lila, who are good characters on their own accord, but Jenny’s character arc was far too abrupt to be believable. Lila’s was a little smoother, but still clunky. And the thing that bothered me the most? The plot shifts so dramatically in the last quarter of the book that suddenly both their characters become pointless.
And, really, it was the plot that killed me in Vortex. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to continue forward and read Timestorm because I’m a sucker for punishment I guess… but Vortex was a hot mess as far as plot goes. First of all, we have the “kids as secret agents!” theme going on, which I loathe. I just find it so, so, so unbelievable.. and this was a criticism I had for The Reluctant Assassin earlier this year. Listen, I think teens are great. I think they can accomplish great things. I don’t believe that they’re going to get drafted into a secret society and become the best at everything and save the world. There’s not enough time for the training and on-the-job experience, and while I’m cool with dragons and vampires, somehow teen agents is too far a stretch of the imagination for me.
Throw in the fact that the plot didn’t seem to know what it wanted to do, and you have chaos. I felt lost a lot during Vortex because there were all sorts of convenient jumps for information that could have been imparted differently, and there was not a lot of follow through on some things. It wanted to do a lot of things at once and it’s almost like Julie Cross thought to herself “psh, I’ve got time travel in my tool box – I can make this happen”. What happened instead was we had an overwhelming amount of random things, no direction, and no concrete main plot to center everything. I think the main plot was aimed to be “stopping Eyewall”, but so little happened on that front that Vortex became a filler book.
So while Tempest was a book I purchased after listening to and has a home on my shelf… Vortex does not. It’s just a means to an end so I can get to Timestorm and see if the journey was worth it. I stand by my recommendation for Tempest, but I’m not sure if Vortex was worth it yet.
Do you find time travel stories too chaotic or confusing? Time travel is a sub-genre of science fiction that I feel like people either love or hate – I’d love to hear your take on it! Let me know in the comments!