The Paradox Initiative is a sci-fi novel set in the year 2510 A.D. The main character, a young woman named Kestrel Evans, lives in Kansas City, Kansas with her parents and two younger brothers and works in the Kansas City Space Port in a shop selling weapons and supplies to travelers. She thinks it's just another Monday up until the moment when there's a crash from the back room, accompanied by the walls shaking and items in the store falling to the floor. When Kestrel investigates, she finds that a machine described as "an eight-foot-tall silver cylinder" has appeared in the midst of the wreckage that was once the storage. Much to her surprise, a man emerges. After a brief exchange, the machine self-destructs, setting off an unexpected and harrowing adventure for Kestrel and the man from the machine
Kestrel comes to know this strange man as Jack Wolfe, a time traveler... and by the way, did I mention that in the reality of the book, time travel is illegal? But Jack doesn't know that. Jack isn't even from Kestrel's time. Jack has been chasing a scientist by the name of William Jakiv, famous for questionable experiments and methods. Jack's appearance ends up drawing Kestrel and her family into a dangerous spiral of events involving space-travel, hired guns, deadly disease, inner demons from past events, and an unexpected romance as Kestrel and Jack race against time to try to save Kestrel's family and figure out what Jakiv's end game is.
Ok. So. I have to say, I LOVE this book. The first time I read it, the story grabbed me by the collar and said "You will read until you finish it. Of course you can keep reading it on your phone while you're in class, you can TOTALLY catch up later on what you missed. And who needs sleep? Yes, yes, read while you cook. Fantastic idea. But YOU WILL READ THIS NOW!!! Don't put it down!!! You HAVE to know what happens!" And, if I'm completely honest, every time I reread it, the exact same thing happens again (and again and again and again). The story is unique and well-written in Rackham's distinctive voice, painting a picture so vivid you can see and hear the events in your imagination with little effort, as though watching a movie.
The characters are interesting and complex, with layers that continue to peel back the farther you read to give you a deeper glimpse into who they are and how they've come to be that way. Kestrel Evans is fantastic. I always enjoy reading a book starring a strong and interesting female lead. She's well-educated, brave, smart, loves books, and will do whatever she needs to do to take care of those she cares about, but she's not just going to float along passively like a jellyfish. She wants to know what's going on and be involved in the decision making, and by golly, she WILL make that happen. Jack reminds me a lot of Logan/Wolverine in some ways. We start off with this image of him s this crotchety gruff guy who's a bit of a jerk and who is determined to avoid getting to know anyone... but eventually, we start seeing his humanity. Even Dr. Jakiv is a multi-faceted person with a surprise or two up his sleeve rather than a flat one-dimensional villain who fits a cookie-cutter stereotype. It takes talent to write a villain who can simultaneously make you go "Dude, you're an absolute jerk, you need to go down, now" and "You know, I don't agree with his actions but I can understand and even feel some sympathy for him."
The Paradox Initiative does eventually get into some stuff that I immediately recognized as symptoms of PTSD. Much to my relief, it was well-handled. That is always something I'm a little nervous about, but Rackham does a fantastic job showing some of the ways in which trauma can manifest itself and the toll it can take on not just the person struggling with PTSD but those around them. As someone with friends and family who have survived/are surviving PTSD, that's always something I appreciate from an author.
All in all, I strongly recommend The Paradox Initiative. It's an enthralling book that will suck you in with it's engaging characters and fascinating story.
As for the drink pairing... I drank hot chocolate with a twist with this one. Specifically, Nestle Rich Milk Chocolate hot chocolate. I had some plain, and then I had some with a splash of Bailey's Chocolate Cherry, a chocolate cherry flavored Irish Cream. Oooooo that was delicious. If you like the idea of adding chocolate cherry flavoring to your hot chocolate without the alcohol, you could probably experiment with adding chocolate syrup and maraschino cherries (and perhaps a teensy bit of Grenadine) instead of the Bailey's. And of course, there were lots of marshmallows on top.I did discover that the jumbo marshmallows don't work quite as well as the little ones for hot chocolate, so I'd advise sticking with the little ones for your drink. But, it paired very well together, especially since Kestrel's preference for chocolate-y coffee that Jack considers practically a dessert becomes a bit of a running joke later on in the book.
Thanks for reading the review! Remember to check back in with us later this week for the Author Q&A and for Fanfic Friday. In the meantime, head over to Amazon to pick up your own copy of The Paradox Initiative and check out some of Rackham's other works. You can also check out her current works in progress on her Patreon site.