Time Dancers (2006) is the second book in Steve Cash‘s sweeping fantasy trilogy called “The Meq” (also the title of the first book in the trilogy). When forced to explain the plot of The Meq in one sentence, my reply is this: the story is like the Highlander TV series/movies but the immortals here are twelve years old. To get more specific, the Meq stop aging when they turn twelve until they find their ameq (their soul mate). Once they are united, the two enter what is called “The Wait” until they decide to cross over, as it were, becoming mortal and able to have a child.
The telling of this story falls on the shoulders of Zianno Zezen, one of the youngest members of the Meq. In the first book, Zianno searches for others like him after the death of his parents. Along the way he learns the significance of the stone he carries–the stone of dreams–and that there are others like it. He finds friends, both Giza (human) and Meq alike, his ameq, and a mortal (or perhaps it would be more apt to say immortal?) foe in the form of a corrupt Meq assassin known as the Fleur-du-mal. In the midst of all that, Z and his friends try to prepare for a Meq event known as the remembering which will reveal their origins and their purpose, a scant hundred years away.
Okay, so if you didn’t read the first book that was all probably a bit confusing. The reason for that is simple: this trilogy isn’t comprised of what can be called stand-alone novels. The sad truth is that I read The Meq about six months before I had the chance to pick up Time Dancers. It took about fifty pages for me to find my stride and maybe a bit longer to really get into the book. I suspect those difficulties would have lessened if I had read the books closer together. Slow start aside, the first book had me invested enough in the characters and plot and (warning!) ended on enough of a cliffhanger-esque note that I was willing to plod along until things picked up even if it did leave me with the impression that, perhaps, the first book was better (I later revised my opinion but perhaps others won’t).
Anyway, the Meq’s preparations for the remembering (AKA “the Gogorati”) begin in earnest in Time Dancers. Both Sailor and the Fleur-du-Mal embark on a search for the elusive sixth stone that may be vital to the Remembering and, much worse, to the Fleur-du-Mal’s continuous quest for dominance over the other Meq. Along the way, Z and his allies (which happily include all of the wonderful characters from The Meq) cross oceans and hop continents in their quest. Though the stone proves elusive, Z forges new alliances and finds several new mysteries along the way–including a Meq whose age is without precedent and another dangerous enemy.
Time Dancers is a good book. But not one that readers can follow without reading its predecessor, thereby firmly grounding this novel as part of a trilogy. What I particularly like about this book is the way Cash incorporates history into the novel. Beginning in 1919 after the end of World War I and ending as World War II approaches its conclusion, this book looks at major events of the twentieth century from up close but also from an anonymous perspective. Anyone interested in history would do well to give this book a glance to see how Cash artfully incorporates contemporary history as a plot vehicle for his fantastical story.