The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms

Author: Ian Thornton
Pages: 336
Publisher: Touchstone 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Johan Thoms is poised for greatness. A promising student at the University of Sarajevo, he is young, brilliant, and in love with the beautiful Lorelei Ribeiro. He can outwit chess masters, quote the Kama Sutra, and converse with dukes and drunkards alike. But he cannot drive a car in reverse. And as with so much in the life of Johan Thoms, this seemingly insignificant detail will prove to be much more than it appears. On the morning of June 28, 1914, Johan takes his place as the chauffeur to Franz Ferdinand and the Royal entourage, and with one wrong turn, he forever alters the course of history. 

Blaming himself for the deaths of the Archduke and his wife, Johan hastens from the scene, and for once his inspired mind cannot process what to do next. Guilt-ridden, he flees Sarajevo, abandoning his friends, family, and beloved in the fear that he has caused them irreparable grievance. He watches in horror as the Great War unfolds, every death settling squarely on Johan’s conscience. Turning his back on his old life, Johan does his best to fade out of memory. 

But the world has other plans for Johan Thoms. As each passing year burdens Johan with further guilt for his inaction, he seeks solace in his writing and in the makeshift family he has assembled around himself. With everyone from emperors to hooligans at his side, and pursued by the ever-determined Lorelei, Johan winds his way through Europe and the Twentieth Century, leaving his indelible mark on both.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Johan Thoms is a genius. Literally. He frequently dazzles his colleagues with displays of his sparkling wit and vast knowledge.

Nobody expected 'the man who knows everything' not to know how to reverse out of a turn; nobody expected the car transporting the Archduke and his wife to be targeted by assassins. And nobody - not even Johan Thoms - could have predicted the chain of events that would be set off by the deaths of the Archduke and his wife.

As the smoke clears, Johan knows he must disappear. Bogged down by the guilt of an entire wars worth of deaths on his conscience, Johan assumes a new life away from the world he once knew, burying his past so deep that not even those who know him best have any idea of what secrets he's keeping. 

But the past is coming back to haunt him, and not even Johan Thoms can figure out what to do when the love of his life appears on his doorstep.

My Thoughts: I had a great time with this novel. The writing style was very witty, and the author's way of describing characters made me chuckle more than a few times. The characters themselves were incredibly interesting -- I loved the idea of one person having such a huge impact on the world and history as a whole.

The pacing was done quite well, and the story itself was easy to follow. The dialogue between the characters made the novel for me, as well as it being a fresh take on a subject matter that's been written about countless times.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction as much as I do, and to anyone looking for a refreshing read to start off the cold weather months with! 

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