About the Book

Title: Invictus
Published: 2017
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Cities in the Mist
BFF Charm: Make It Rain
Talky Talk: Timey-Wimey
Bonus Factors: Time Travel, Diversity, Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Relationship Status: Crewmates

Cover Story: Cities in the Mist

Until I started writing this section, I hadn’t noticed the city in the upper-left corner. But now that I have, I realize how much depth there is to this cover. At first glance, it’s nothing but shades of grey punctuated with green and pink, but dive a little deeper and it’s all sorts of topsy-turvy.

Very fitting for the story within.

The Deal:

Farway Gaius McCarthy is a boy without a birthday. Literally: He was born in the space between time on his mother’s time travel ship. This infamy has followed him his whole life, past the point where his mother and crew went missing, and through his time at in school, where he learned how to follow in her footsteps, and do it with style.

When Far fails his final time-travel exam, however, he’s faced with the unknown. Not being a time-traveler is something he’s never considered, so when a shady businessman comes to him with a proposition, he signs on the figurative dotted line.

Together with his crew—cousin Imogen, best friend Gram, and love interest Priya—Far travels through time on the good ship Invictus, “rescuing” priceless relics before they can become lost to history. On a mission to the Titanic, however, their lives are upended by a mysterious girl named Eliot (just Eliot …) who knows too much and shares too little.

BFF Charm: Make It Rain

BFF charm holding an umbrella

The crew of the Invictus is a motley bunch. Far, the captain, has a chip on his shoulder the size of a large boulder, thanks to his parentage, his past, and the fact that he sees his expulsion from school as the fault of someone who was out to get him, not his own. He’s more than willing to put himself in danger, both for his family and their missions, but damned if anyone else tries to do the same for him.

Imogen, his cousin and the crew’s historian—she does the research on where they’re headed and makes sure their costumes and language translators are correct for the time periods—is a Personality, capital P intended. She colors her hair a different color every day, has a red panda as a pet, and loves nothing more than to dive into a tub of gelato to celebrate anything and everything. She can be a bit much, but every crew needs that bright spot.

Gram’s the brain. He gets them where they need to go, when they need to be there. He’s quiet and reserved, and can sometimes let his brain do the leading, but no one’s smarter. And Priya is the fixer, both of medical issues and mechanical ones. Also brilliant, it’s no wonder that Far was captivated by her from the moment they met.

Together, this crew is the kind of group that works like a well-oiled machine, regardless of the fact that they seem like a bunch of misfits who shouldn’t work together well at all. It would take a lot of doing, but I’d throw my lot in with them in a hot second.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

There are a few relationships in the book that bring the swoon, but it’s more in how much the particular parties adore each other than how much alone time they have. (The Invictus isn’t a large ship, and everyone’s bunks are very close together.) Additionally, there isn’t much time for sexytimes after some shizz hits the fan.

Talky Talk: Timey-Wimey

Ryan Graudin is an author who has dabbled in many genres, from faerie books to alternate history to dystopian lit and now science fiction. It’s an enviable skill, being able to follow your imagination where it takes you, and it’s even more impressive that Graudin can do so without losing a beat. Three different reviewers here at FYA have reviewed her novels, and all of us—even though our tastes often differ—have really enjoyed the books we’ve read. Invictus is a little less intense than Wolf by Wolf or The Walled City, and a little more realistic—even with time travel—than the All That Glows duology, but the book echoes all of Graudin’s previous novels in its strong characters and fast-paced action.

Invictus is an engaging read, one that asks you to suspend a little disbelief, but no more so than other time travel stories. It’s a science fiction novel that leans more heavily on the fiction, and pays homage—and sometimes references, in clever ways—other science fiction stories such as Doctor Who. The world in which Far lives is a believable one for all its futuristic technology, and it was fun to escape with the crew of the Invictus on their adventures, even when the stakes got very, very high.

Bonus Factor: Time Travel

Invictus starts at a Roman gladiatorial match and jumps back and forth into our future, stopping at many different points in between. There are trips to the Library at Alexandria, a vacation in present-day Vegas, a stop at the Titanic, etc. The idea of a future in which there exists a military arm devoted to recording moments in history that would otherwise be lost absolutely delights me. Sure, there are so many things that could go wrong, and where there’s time travel there’s time thievery—both the grey heists that Far and crew do and likely much more villainous ones that aren’t in the book—but … TIME TRAVEL, y’all. Can we please fast forward to the future where this is a thing, cause I’ll totally go back to school for a new degree.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

There’s a good mix of race and culture on the Invictus: Far’s half Roman (OG Roman, from 95 AD), Gram’s black, Imogen is a blonde-haired white girl, Priya’s South Asian. Even in the future, their various upbringings and the pressures they face from family, outsiders, etc. affect who they are and how they do their jobs.

Additionally, Eliot has Alopecia, which I don’t remember ever reading about in a YA book before. (You can correct me if I’m blanking!)

Bonus Factor: Manic Pixie Dream Girl

The main characters from 500 Days of Summer.

Some might consider this an anti-bonus factor, but even though Imogen checks a majority of MPDG boxes, she’s still a ray of sunshine in a sometimes dark book. But the fact that she changes her hair color each day with chalks had my OCD tendencies cringing. I can only imagine how much cleaning someone has to do each day to keep it from getting EVERYWHERE.

Another part of me is totally jealous. I have to bleach my hair like crazy before any color other than dark brown (or darker) will show up.

Relationship Status: Crewmates

I’m not going to butt in on anyone’s couplings, Book, but I would love to tag along on your adventures. I’m not entirely sure what my role would be on the crew, but I can certainly come up with something that would make me an invaluable asset. PLEASE LET ME JOIN.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Invictus is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.