Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Tor; New Ed edition (30 April 2005)
Category(ies): Science Fiction
This is not one of Asher's Polity books. Indeed, being a time travel novel, of that subset to do with temporal wars, it's unlikely to be part of any series.
Our protagonist is Polly, a street-wise mid-teen drug addict who makes a living from under-age whoring. She's not a particularly attractive person, though she does improve during the course of the novel, under the impact of events. And the major event that happens to her is that she has a 'tor' attached to her - a bracer that drags her back through time in increasing jumps to a point before life's conquest of the land, where the Big Bad expects to 'sample' her for reasons that are never particularly clear.
This particular sub-genre is a difficult one to do right. Having a modern character interacting, however briefly, with historical periods is tricky, and it's always going to be suspiciously coincidental that she encounters both a King and the Emperor Claudius. The story is most reminiscent of Barrington Bayley at his more inventive, but whereas Bayley was odd, Asher doesn't quite bring it off. It's all too confused: motivation is far from straightforward, and even which faction are the good side, which the bad, isn't clear.
If this had been my first Asher novel, I might well have decided against him as a writer.
In the end, I have to say it's an interesting experiment that Asher doesn't quite bring off.