A Coin for the Ferryman

Rating: 2 out of 5.

An enviably creative premise with some fun moments, but ultimately misses its mark (unless said mark was a new take on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, of course).

An enviably creative premise with some fun moments, but ultimately misses its mark (unless said mark was a new take on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, of course).

A title like A Coin for the Ferryman is in itself a draw, and sets some expectations. The idea is terrific – a Nobel Laureate with a heartbreaking childhood story dedicates his life to time-travel to make up for a good deed gone wrong as a child, and decides to use Julius Caesar as his coup d’etat. He assembles a team, spews Elon Musk-esque eccentricities, and away we go.

Unfortunately, the idea and an interesting modern prologue is where the greatness ends. From very early on, the characters perpetuate antiquated stereotypes, the science is lacking any semblance of accuracy, and the story never approaches believable. Of course time travel and everything around it are imaginary in this context, but the hallmark of successful sci-fi & fantasy is that you forget. In this case, the story does the opposite and constantly reminds you of it’s lack of realism.

The crux of the story begins as project leader Andrew Danicek is assembling his team, which at five people is laughably small for a team trying to prove time travel by nabbing Julius Caesar. At the same time, Cassandra is a young woman dreaming of a college education, happens to speak fluent Latin, and is about to take the leap from Vegas waitress to Vegas call girl. But in the first of many overly coincidental events, she never even has to slip off a shoe and has her future dreams handed to her. Eventually these two worlds collide, because college freshman Cassandra is decided by Andrew’s IDES team to be the foremost expert on spoken latin, though it’s pretty clear the underlying reason is that she is actually the most attractive Latin speaker they can find.

The rest of the book continues in this vein. Very large decisions, such as how to behave when Julius-freaking-Caesar lands in the 20th Century, are made by a committee of bickering scientists, one of whom intentionally dons neon lycra to shock and awe because she has been jilted by Danicek. Caesar displays no culture shock beyond some quizzical looks and antiquated behaviors towards women, until that script is flipped in such a way that knocks down all the strength Cassandra had managed to build. Illogical coincidences aside, she was the one strong character until her plotline crashed into the stereotypes of the others.

There are some fun moments to lift it to a second star, purely because there is just enough to keep you wondering how it’s going to end. Will it come around and undo some of the absurd misogyny? Will we finally get a taste of what it would really look like for an ancient figure to land in modern times? Or will all the flames just come together into an epic conflagration?

 A Coin for the Ferryman is a fabulous idea that fell victim to overused and sometimes offensive tropes, simplified writing, and a lack of editing that allowed for at least three too many irrelevant storylines to distract. 

*Note: review of narration by Mark Ashby has not been included intentionally, as the playback quality was extremely poor. My initial reaction is around three stars – he seemed to have the talent but almost felt as though he wasn’t sure how to play the material – but I can’t in good conscience judge without knowing what is due to his narration vs. the poor audio quality.

Thank you to NetGalley and Imbrifex Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

The Details:

A Coin for the Ferryman
By Megan Edwards
Narrated by Mark Ashby
Published March 1, 2022
Imbrifex Books
General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sci Fi & Fantasy

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