10 Time-Twisting Novels to Leap Into This Year

February 17 2020

With the extra day of 2020’s leap year coming up, it’s hard not to think of the strangeness of time. Whether you’re procrastinating at work, stealing away for some beach-read vacation days, or sneaking in just a few more pages before bedtime, the act of reading is one of the best ways to expand, slow, or skip through time in our own lives. Just like our attempts to escape time in the books we read, the characters in these books all have the ability—magically, scientifically, inexplicably—to travel in time. Some of them use this ability to attempt to change world-altering events, while others fight against time to get back to the people they love. Consider picking up one of these time-twisting novels if you’re looking for a reason to get lost in a book and lost in time this February.

Veil of Time
by Claire R. McDougall

Perfect for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Veil of Time tells the story of Maggie, a woman split between modern and ancient Scotland. After the death of her daughter, Maggie withdraws to a rural cottage, where she medicates herself into a haze. But within these drug-induced stupors, Maggie rediscovers the eighth-century Scottish village of Dunadd. As the flashbacks get longer, Maggie begins to fall in love with the dashing Prince Fergus. Nevertheless, the present day and her grown son call her home. 

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Veil of Time
Claire R. McDougall

The captivating tale of two Scotlands—one modern and one ancient—and the woman who parts the veil between them, Veil of Time has all of the elements that makes Outlander so memorable.

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This Is How You Lose the Time War
by Amal El-Mohtar

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a futuristic spy thriller turned romance by two today’s best science fiction writers. Red, an agent hailing from a technocratic society, and Blue, an agent from a community defined by an organic, interconnected consciousness, are duty-bound to travel through time, fighting each other for dominance. But through a series of letters, these two lonely and troubled fighters begin to develop feelings for each other, despite what it might cost them.

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This Is How You Lose the Time War
Amal El-Mohtar

“[An] exquisitely crafted tale...Part epistolary romance, part mind-blowing science fiction adventure, this dazzling story unfolds bit by bit, revealing layers of meaning as it plays with cause and effect, wildly imaginative technologies, and increasingly intricate wordplay...This short novel warrants multiple readings to fully unlock its complexities.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review).

From award-winning authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone comes an enthralling, romantic novel spanning time and space about two time-traveling rivals who fall in love and must change the past to ensure their future.

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandment finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, becomes something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean the death of each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win. That’s how war works, right?

Cowritten by two beloved and award-winning sci-fi writers, This Is How You Lose the Time War is an epic love story spanning time and space.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Time Shadows
by Deborah D. Moore

Morgan, an ancient sorceress looking to make amends, has invented a spell to travel back in time but knows it’s too risky to do herself. Sage, who has a debt to pay and nothing to lose, agrees to the plan but is still shocked to find herself transported back to 1912 aboard the Titanic. The only way to get back to the present is to find and correct whatever wrong Morgan wants to make right. But without a clue of what to do, Sage will have to act fast if she doesn’t want to go down with the ship.

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Time Shadows
Deborah D. Moore

A girl with nothing to lose is sent back in time to reconcile the past mistakes of an 800-year old sorceress.

Morgan, a powerful 800-year-old sorceress, wants to make amends for the bad things she’s done during her long life. She has perfected a spell that opens a gateway to the past - the only problem is that she can’t return to a time she’s already lived through. If she does, both her younger spirit and her current form would cease to exist. The only solution is to convince someone to travel back for her—someone that wouldn't be missed if things went wrong.

Sage Aster doesn’t really believe that Morgan can send her back to the past, so as payment for the kindness Morgan showed her when she was homeless and alone, Sage agrees to the time travel experiment. She is then stunned to find herself transported back to 1912 aboard the doomed Titanic.

Again and again Sage is sent back to different timelines, never quite knowing what she is supposed to accomplish—or how to make things right.

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Time-Twisting Novels to Leap Into This Year

By Alice Martin | February 17, 2020

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The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger

In this enchanting, unusual, romantic tale, two star-crossed lovers must make their way back to each other, time and time again. Henry, a handsome, risk-taking librarian, has fallen in love with artist Clare Abshire. Unfortunately, Henry’s life has always been defined by his strange ability to travel involuntarily through time. As their affair grows more passionate, Henry’s trips grow more frequent and more erratic. Nevertheless, he’s determined to return to heralways. 

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The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

Is time a parabola? If you asked the couple at the heart of this remarkable story, Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course, they'd probably both say yes. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

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Time and Again
by Jack Finney

A time-traveling classic, Time and Again is a richly researched historical fiction with one-of-a-kind illustrations. After finding a partially destroyed letter dating from 1880s New York, Si Morley volunteers to join a government experiment looking to send someone back to that exact time and place. Between the adventure-filled city and the charming woman he meets there, Si is quickly engrossed in his new surroundings. But when his job calls him back to the present, Si has to decide between the two worlds once and for all. 

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Time and Again
Jack Finney

When advertising artist Si Morley is recruited to join a covert government operation exploring the possibility of time travel, he jumps at the chance to leave his twentieth-century existence and step into New York City in January 1882. Aside from his thirst for experience, he has good reason to return to the past—his friend Kate has a curious, half-burned letter dated from that year, and he wants to trace the mystery. But when Si begins to fall in love with a woman he meets in the past, he will be forced to choose between two worlds—forever.

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The Last Magician
by Lisa Maxwell

In this New York Times bestseller, the first in the spellbinding Last Magician series, time-traveling thief Esta is on the mission of a lifetime. Mageusthose who can still practice magicare few in number and trapped by the evil Order. Esta must travel back to early 1900s New York City, a place defined by secret societies, gangs, and intense magical energy, to steal the Order’s ancient book and prevent them from destroying her kind in the future. 

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The Last Magician
Lisa Maxwell

An instant New York Times bestseller!

“Will keep you guessing until the last page.” —Cinda Williams Chima, New York Times bestselling author

A girl travels back in time to find a mysterious book that could save her future in Lisa Maxwell’s “splendid series opener” (Kirkus Reviews).

Stop the Magician.
Steal the book.
Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she's been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Time-Twisting Novels to Leap Into This Year

By Alice Martin | February 17, 2020

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11/22/63
by Stephen King

From the incomparable Stephen King comes a time-traveling thriller of epic proportions. High school teacher Jake is drawn into his friend Al’s longtime obsession to stop the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy after Al shows him a time-travel portal in his diner. Soon, Jake is surrounded by the shiny, pop-colored Americana of decades past. While Jake attempts to begin a new life in Jodie, Texas, he keeps being drawn into the path of the troubled Lee Harvey Oswald, and ultimately into the dangerous role he was always meant to play. 

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11/22/63
Stephen King

One of the Ten Best Books of The New York Times Book Review
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Now a miniseries from Hulu starring James Franco

ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, THREE SHOTS RANG OUT IN DALLAS, PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED, AND THE WORLD CHANGED. WHAT IF YOU COULD CHANGE IT BACK?

In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King—who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer—takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.

It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life—like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963—turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Time Traveler's Almanac
by Isaac Asimov, by Ann VanderMeer, Jeff VanderMeer

From time-based disaster tourism, to a dunce with unsettling powers, to alternate histories that provide snapshots of impossible futures, The Time Traveler’s Almanac has it all. This expert anthology provides an extensive history of classic, heart-stopping, genre-defining time travel stories. Including bestselling and award-winning authors such as Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, H. G. Wells, and George R. R. Martin, this anthology is the be-all and end-all collection of thrilling and uncanny science fiction and fantasy writing. 

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The Time Traveler's Almanac
Isaac Asimov, by Ann VanderMeer, Jeff VanderMeer

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Time-Twisting Novels to Leap Into This Year

By Alice Martin | February 17, 2020

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What The Wind Knows
by Amy Harmon

From bestselling author Amy Harmon comes a poignant story of one woman’s exploration into her family’s past. After her beloved grandfather’s death, Anne visits her family’s estranged Irish homeland. There, Anne is transported back to 1921. The country is poised on a knife’s edge, but Anne is growing closer to the generous Dr. Thomas Smith and the political causes he supports. Before Anne can decide if she will stay in the past or return to the present, she must first survive the fight at hand. 

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What The Wind Knows
Amy Harmon

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Time-Twisting Novels to Leap Into This Year

By Alice Martin | February 17, 2020

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Kindred
by Octavia E. Butler

From the master of science fiction, Octavia Butler, comes the devastating classic Kindreda story of a modern woman brought face-to-face with America’s violent antebellum past. Out of nowhere, Dana finds herself ripped away from her husband, Kevin, and back in the nineteenth-century South. As each visit back gets longer and her connections to the people she encounters grows stronger, Dana must figure out how to break free of her connection to the past, and how to survive while she’s there. 

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Kindred
Octavia E. Butler

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Photo Credit: Chinnapong/iStock

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