Review: Keeper of the Black Stones (ARC) by P.T. McHugh

               *Special thanks to Carrie from Glass House Press for the Advanced Readers Copy.
Awkward in his own skin, shy around girls and worried about anything and everything, Jason Evans is just like a million other teenage boys in high school, with one very large exception: he has been given a gift that allows him to jump through time. A set of stones has fallen into his lap that gives him access to any place - and any time - that he chooses. But along with that gift comes the responsibility of stopping the man who is using those very stones to travel through time and change history for his own purposes. A man who is now holding Jason's grandfather hostage, and threatening the world's very existence. Jumping through time with his best friend and body guard, Jason must enter the world of Medieval England, learn its customs, navigate unimaginable danger, and help Henry VII win the Battle of Bosworth, in the name of finding his grandfather, rescuing a beautiful girl from the clutches of a corrupt church, and destroying the one man who pledges to turn history inside out.

I've always loved time travel, and when I read the premise for Keeper of the Black Stones – a boy who stumbles onto the fact that his Grandfather has access to stones that allow people to travel back in time – you can imagine how excited I was when I got an advanced reading copy! You know what's even more exciting?! When something you high expectations for, actually lives up to them!

P.T. McHugh has spun an exhilarating tale about a young man named Jason who discovers his destiny is greater than he ever could have imagined. I was pulled into his story from the beginning.  At the start, Jason is just your typical, shy high-school student. He’s not bored of his life exactly, but it’s nothing exciting either. It just is. By the end of the book, Jason is forever changed and not just because he stumbles onto some higher purpose. It always annoys me in stories where the main character is special in some way but it is constantly said and not shown throughout the story. However, Jason proves himself again and again throughout the story showing the utmost level of bravery and loyalty.

Keeper of the Black Stones is an action packed adventure set (mostly) in 15th century England full of battles, chase scenes, an epic villain named Lord Dresden, as well as other shady figures. History buffs, especially those with a soft spot for this time period, will absolutely revel in all the sights and sounds this story will evoke in you. Throughout the storythe sense of urgency is often, and there is a great need to keep flipping the pages. Placing modern day characters so far into the past cannot be an easy task but McHugh does it with ease. The plot is perfectly paced. Things happen when they need to happen, and not a moment sooner or later. Keeper of the Black Stones is mostly told from Jason’s point of view, though we do get some insight from other characters, which make the overall journey even more compelling in my opinion. 

When it comes to time-travel, it takes precision to use it effectively in a story. More than anything it can’t be too complicated and there has to be a level of plausibility to it, or readers may not be able to buy it. At the same time, it has to keep readers engaged, and keep them interested. In Keeper of the Black Stones, the mechanics of time travel are cleverly done. What I loved about what McHugh did in this story is that time travel is simple yet incredibly fascinating. I don’t want to give much away, but it's like the stones are separate characters unto themselves, and you just want to peel back the layers and uncover the mystery behind them, and how exactly Jason and his grandfather are so connected to them. Actually, one of my ultimate favorite aspects of this book is the unique connection between Jason and the stones, but that connection, and the way the stones allow him to travel, is something every reader should discover on their own.

The females in this book Tatiana, and Katherine - are well-written and strong, albeit in different ways - as one is from present day and the other is from the 15th century - but each are more than capable, and I can't wait to see what's in store for them in future books. I enjoyed the growing friendship between Jason and Tatiana, as well as the unique connection between Jason and Katherine. What impressed me was that each relationship Jason had with both girls was subtle, quiet, as well as undefined, leaving plenty of time for exploration in the next book, and leaving the focus on the group dynamic, and their greater mission as a whole.

I don't know about anyone else, but in order for something to gel with me completely there has to be humor. There has to be light to balance out the dark. McHugh is a master of making the reader tense one minute wondering if our characters are about to get caught, and then burst out laughing the next. Paul, Jason’s best friend has some of the best lines, and helps keep the mood up the story up even when things look grim.

I think what grabbed me about Keeper of the Black Stones the most, is that it’s not just a time travel story. I love time travel, but what spoke to my heart is that this is very much a story about the bonds between friends and family. It’s about a boy loving his grandfather so much he would jump back in time to save him. It’s about how one friend would follow his friend back through time, without hesitation. It’s about how a man, who took his vow as bodyguard so seriously, he followed two kids he barely knew through time. This is also the story of two girls who have nothing left to lose, and found friendship and comfort from people they least expected. Sometimes the bond between family and friends can be pure and full of love but other times they can be much more complex or even ugly, and Keeper of the Black Stones explores this flawlessly. In the end though, this is what Keeper of the Black Stones is: a story about a group of people trying to survive, and survive together.

Obviously, I won't be giving away the ending, but THE ENDING. Book two, where are you?!

Ultimately, McHugh has crafted a clever and exciting tale that effortlessly blends history, fantasy, action-adventure, and humor. He is definitely an author you should be keeping your eye on! If you love time travel and history, this is for you. Even if those aren't really your thing, fret not, because it's so much more than that. I think everyone should give this a chance! I am so thrilled I discovered this series, and I cannot wait to see what happens to Jason in the gang in the next instalment. 

  • Plot A+
  • Characters A
  • World-building/setting A+
  • Relationships A
  • Pace A
  • Writing Style A

PT McHugh didn't start out as a storyteller. He was, however, born into a family that encouraged imagination. He became a fan of history in school and then went to college to become a construction engineer, to build a world of straight lines, angles, and equations. He was just as surprised as everyone else when he realized that he believed in magic, and might just know the secret of how to jump through time. Since then, he’s been researching the possibility and learning everything he can about history. Just in case the opportunity arises. PT was born and raised in New Hampshire and currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife, two daughters, and a dog named Bob, daring to dream of alternate worlds and cheering for his beloved New England Patriots.

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Once upon a time, there were two sisters -Susan and Shauna - who were moved and mesmerized by stories through any medium, since they were teeny tiny. This passion stayed with them throughout adulthood, and after becoming even more enthralled with Young Adult fiction in recent times (and some Adult & MG!) they decided they just had to open up their own book blog and share their enthusiasm with the world, or well, to anyone who would listen.

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