Book Review: The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman
Leo never imagined that time travel might really be possible, or that the objects in H. G. Wells’ science fiction novels might actually exist. And when a miniature time machine appears in Leo’s bedroom, he has no idea who the tiny, beautiful girl is riding it. But in the few moments before it vanishes, returning to wherever—and whenever—it came from, he recognizes the other tiny rider: himself!
His search for the time machine, the girl, and his fate leads him to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a magical library that lends out objects instead of books. Hidden away in the Repository basement is the Wells Bequest, a secret collection of powerful objects straight out of classic science fiction novels: robots, rockets, submarines, a shrink ray—and one very famous time machine. And when Leo’s adventure of a lifetime suddenly turns deadly, he must attempt a journey to 1895 to warn real-life scientist Nikola Tesla about a dangerous invention. A race for time is on!
In this grand time-travel adventure full of paradoxes and humor, Polly Shulman gives readers a taste of how fascinating science can be, deftly blending classic science fiction elements with the contemporary fantasy world readers fell in love with in The Grimm Legacy.
I thought it only fitting that I review the sequel to one of the first books I ever reviewed on Lady with Books, The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, during my second year blogiversary. But instead of fairy tale artifacts and relics, we get science fiction machines and contraptions in The Wells Bequest. We get to see a grown up Jaya, who you will remember as the little sister of Anjali in The Grimm Legacy, and a new host of characters who are introduced to the wonders of the New York Circulating Material Repository for the first time. Of course, you can’t mentions science fiction and H.G. Wells without recalling his famous time machine.
The Wells Bequest fits nicely as the sequel to The Grimm Legacy. Jaya is the perfect feisty heroine and ruler of the pages at the repository. She’s bossy and capable and isn’t a damsel in distress. It’s nice also to see a boy, Leo, as the character who bumbles into the adventure by accident. It’s usually a girl who plays that role. We are immediately introduced to Leo and the time machine, which is kind of jarring. There is very little lead-in to the story and it all happens very quickly. I liked how all of the artifacts in the different repositories obeyed the laws set down for them in their source books. I enjoyed the trips with the artifacts, when Jaya and Leo were disassembled to London and then the return trip across the Atlantic in the Terror, and the trip into the past with the time machine. It was interesting to meet Tesla and Mark Twain. Fans of science fiction books will enjoy seeing all their favorite machines mentioned in The Wells Bequest. It’s kind of like playing science fiction bingo.
The story can get a bit bogged down with information overload. There are several times where we have to slow down and explain things; such as how imaginary items from fiction books could possibly exist in the real world, how the items came to be at the repository, trying to explain how the oversized artifact storage area could fit into normal space. It may drive nerdy and logical Leo nuts to not understand how but it just confuses readers. Working with science fiction artifacts in The Wells Bequest ended up more unwieldy than working with fairy tale artifacts proved to be in The Grimm Legacy. Let’s talk a minute about our villain in this book, Simon, who is apparently so in love with Jaya that he feels his only course of action is to hold the world hostage with what may or may not be one of Tesla’s death rays and demand the use of H.G. Wells’ time machine in order to stop his past self being a douchebag and making Jaya hate him. This, is pathetic. Simon is the most uninspiring villain I’ve seen in some time and I agree with Leo that the world was better off with the little snot not existing. He’s cartoonish and a buffoon.
The Wells Bequest is a nice sequel. I enjoyed the refreshing way that the adults in the book treated the teens. The adults weren’t blind fools and they didn’t treat the teens like stupid inferiors. It’s nice to see the adults and teens working together when so many other books have the teens having to work around the adults to accomplish anything. Science fiction fans will enjoy the many literary nuggets sprinkled through the book. We see Captain Nemo’s submarine The Nautilus in the stacks, although see it is all that happens. Those types of tidbits are all through the book. The Well’s Bequest by Polly Shulman was an amazingly fun read. I do suggest reading The Grimm Legacy beforehand. You won’t be totally lost if you don’t but you will miss a bit of the atmosphere and some background, like the big deal with the moving windows and why Jaya keeps going on about her sister. I adored The Grimm Legacy and liked The Wells Bequest and suggest both books.