Published: September 3rd 2015 by Walker Books
Format: Paperback, 356 pages
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Science Fiction
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How many times can you lose the person you love?
Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.
Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?
Maybe the next together will be different...
I’m a sucker for reincarnation stories, so I’ve been looking forward to reading this since I heard about it. I loved The Next Together – the concept is amazing and the execution is brilliant! I loved every moment of my time with all the different versions of Katherine and Matthew.
Lauren James has performed a wonderful feat in the The Next Together: she’s conveyed the stories, personalities and histories of four different sets of her protagonists. The book hops between four time periods: the present (2039), 2019, 1854, and 1745. While conveyed in traditional narrative style for three of those time periods, the story of the 2019 couple is told through handwritten notes and emails. The rest of the book is peppered with internet searches and video transcripts and the like. I read Illuminae recently, so I was doubly appreciative of the little additions to the story.
The versions of Matthew and Katherine we meet are familiar and yet necessarily distinct from one another. Katherine keeps her sense of humour and brazen ways in all incarnations, just as Matthew keeps his shy demeanour and always seems flabbergasted by Katherine. Their courtships are always different but some elements remain the same – Katherine usually makes the first move and their first kisses are all echoes of all their other kisses. These characters are brilliant, and I liked seeing how circumstances and history translated into slight changes in personality.
I struggled to keep track of all the different Matthews and Katherines initially, but it only took a few chapters to get them straight in my head. Their circumstances and experiences were so different that I really didn’t have an issue with the book jumping between time periods. This format allowed the author to carefully control the clues and information her protagonists (and thus her readers) had access to, which meant that the larger twists and turns of the narrative weren’t predictable.
The novel has a surprisingly large scope. It blends elements of fantasy and contemporary fiction, with some science fiction to spice it up. Presented in the style of an official report or dossier, the novel slowly reveals that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, and the reincarnation of Matthew and Katherine is only the beginning. We see these hidden elements experiment and try new things to reach their objective, and it’s only right at the end that we really get a clue on the overarching story. This, of course, makes the sequel – The Last Beginning – absolutely necessary.
This is a romance story – or rather four romance stories – make no mistake, but the reincarnation, historical, and science fiction elements give it something extra. The Next Together transcends the traditional boundaries of genre to give readers a unique story. I really liked it, and I’m looking forward to the sequel!