img01In Anna Jarzab’s book Tandem, Book One in the Many-Worlds Trilogy, readers will find some of the spirit of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine–which features multiple scientific and literary allusions–and some of the wonderings of Alisa Valdes’ The Temptation–which invites questions about parallel universes and presents a paranormal romance.  Given those qualities, a convoluted plot, and characters like Sasha Lawson, Princess Juliana, and secret agent Thomas Mayhew who invite connection and whose stories involve intrigue, this science-fiction romance provides tremendous reader appeal.

Tired of her arranged and orchestrated life in the United Commonwealth of Columbia—of being a pawn in someone else’s game—Juliana decides she wants a normal life and arranges for her kidnapping.  Because her disappearance leaves her country, Aurora, vulnerable to war, Thomas, who works for the King’s elite security service’s (KES) defense department, travels to Earth to abduct Juli’s double, her analog—sixteen year old Sasha from Chicago who finds herself about to be the bride of Callum, the Prince of Farnham.

With interuniverse travels through the tandem, however, there are consequences: “disruptions, imbalances of mass and energy with destructive results” (11).  Many of these consequences pose unforeseen challenges for those involved.  Even Juli, who thought she would experience freedom away from the Castle by avoiding her responsibilities and who thought she would have the chance to be who she wants to be, finds herself a prisoner of the Libertas, a rebel political faction inAurora.  Realizing her ignorance and willing to accept her defeat with grace and dignity, she still clings to the belief that either the Monad will set her free or she will have the opportunity to fight for her freedom.

Despite her childhood dream to be a princess, Sasha, too, wishes for the freedom to return to her ordinary life back home.  All the while, she wonders why Juliana’s life seems so familiar to her, why visions seem to come true.  Additional confusion comes from the handsome and mostly chivalrous Thomas, who is cold and unfeeling one moment and passionate and insistent the next—qualities which also render him suspicious.  Having been orphaned early in life and having a boss like the General, love just wasn’t something Thomas had much occasion to express.  To make life easier, Sasha wonders why awful people can’t just be ugly and good people beautiful.

When she meets Doctor Moss, Sasha learns why she feels a connection to Juliana.  The connection, called a tether, is especially strong in Sasha’s case, and Dr. Moss—who enjoys the promise and challenge of subterfuge—teaches Sasha one dangerous way to harness what had earlier been a passive power.  Of power, Sasha learns that it makes a person vulnerable as well as strong: “People want to use you for it, or take it from you” (330).

Besides its references to theoretical physics and to mathematics, Tandem includes rich allusions to William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and to Homer’s The Odyssey.  With this book about peril, endurance, and achieving greatness, the reader is wise to pay attention to patterns and to remember the Greek phrase Kata to chreon—according to the debt—since every disruption event comes with repercussions.  After all, the universe—which strives for harmony and balance—is an ordered place where everything has a price that is collected in due course.

  • Posted by Donna

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