Subject: doctorlit reviews: Rocco (aka A Time of Darkness) by Sherryl Jordan
Posted on: 2020-07-19 18:46:45 UTC

(Apologies for tacking on, Thoth. Actually, I guess we're no longer knocking old threads into oblivion any more, are we? But old habits are hard to break. So tacking on.)

I attended a fancy all-male prep school for high school, mostly because Dad ran the bookstore there and didn’t have to pay tuition. But teenage boys in a fancy prep school are still teenage boys (EXCEPT ME OF COURSE), and at the end of each school year, myriad textbooks and novels from all different courses would kinda. Just. Be left behind in the lockers. Despite the fact that the textbooks could have been sold back to Dad for cash. Oh well. The rescued texts would get repaired (some by me!), while the fiction would be stored, in preparation for a traveling used book seller to visit and buy whatever was in enough demand to warranting resale.

But before he came, I would always go through and take my pick. lip smack

I’m, uh. Over the years, I've been slowly getting through the massive amount of books I “adopted” this way. I still have . . . well, I guess I’ll just count: 60 left. And I’m totally going to get to them all.



But I did just read one of them! And it was good. Like real good, like oh my gosh, is this a series? Because I’m immediately invested. The book strangely didn’t include an About-the-Author, so I’ll be looking her up once I finish this review.

Spoilers for A Time of Darkness by Sherryl Jordan. (Apparently, it’s titled Rocco outside of the United States.) I just realized how brilliant the U.S. title is, but that’s too much spoilers.

The basic setup in the beginning of this novel is that a teenage boy, Rocco Makepeace, keeps having an uncomfortably vivid nightmare about being a caveman in a cave, being attacked by a wolf, and falling down a cliff. Not a fun dream, to be sure, but the uncomfortable part comes from waking up with sand in his bed, the smell of stew in his bedroom, and the aching feeling of a wolf bite on his face, even though the rest of his family can’t seem to detect any of this evidence. We spend just enough time on this opening part (what you might call . . . Rocco’s modern life? >.> ) to meet Rocco’s immediate family and learn a bit of the family history—most importantly, that a lot of the people on his father’s side have a bit of ESP in them—before Rocco falls asleep one last time and wakes up in Anshur, a secluded oasis inhabited by a small group of primitive folks.

I’m inevitably comparing this novel to the Earth’s Children series. Whereas EC has a viewpoint character from the time period of its setting, AToD throws an 80s boy into the ancient time period. The cultural divide is shown quite clearly, as sixteen-year-old Rocco’s first action is to get the crap kicked out of him and nearly drowned by a bunch of six-to-eight-year-olds. Sounds legit. The difference in viewpoints is shown so many different ways, Jordan really put a lot of thought into the matter. Particularly fun is the villagers’ reaction to Rocco’s purple shirt, as most of the younger kids had never seen that color before. I also liked the two-way mismatch on medical matters: Rocco’s reaction to the initial distrust of Anshur’s people is to jokingly reassure them he doesn’t have the plague. Which they react very aggressively towards, because for them, the Bubonic plague is a very real and fatal concern. On the other hand, when Rocco gets hurt by a big cat later, he freaks out and tries to keep anyone from tending to the wound, because he assumes their medical care will involve leeches and amputation and contaminated instruments.

There’s also a twist! A big twist, and for once, I managed to sleuth it out ahead of time. But here’s the thing: it’s such a good twist, that I don’t even want to discuss it, because I would rather y’all go find a copy and read it yourselves! I will say that, upon arriving at the end, I appreciated how incredibly tightly woven the primary plot thread was. I realize reviewing, like, a third of a novel and saying “it’s good, go read” might feel a bit disingenuous, but really, saying too much would be a disservice to anyone who decides to pick this up.

—doctorlit, trying to get everyone on the YA bandwagon

“The spoiler bared its teeth and sprang. He felt the impact of its body, coarse and hard and warm.” “The spoiler bared its teeth and sprang. He felt the impact of its body, coarse and hard and warm.” “The spoiler bared its teeth and sprang. He felt the impact of its body, coarse and hard and warm.”

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