February 08, 2024

Scott Alexander Howard: "The Other Valley" (ARC Review)

Title: The Other Valley [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Scott Alexander Howard [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist (with a prominent time-travel angle, but not of the Sci-Fi kind)
Year: 2024
Age: 18+ (there are two versions of the protagonist, teen and adult, and on the whole I would categorise the book as "adult" - also because we spend more time with the lead's adult version - but it's accessible to younger readers)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Imaginative, heartfelt, thought-provoking twist on the time-travel trope.
Cons: Quiet, sometimes sad, sometimes harsh and gloomy. Also, please note: for unknown reasons (though according to someone on Goodreads, it may be due to a new trend???!!!) the ARC lacks any quotation marks or indications of direct speech (no idea about the finished copy). I was able to follow the characters' exchanges without any problem, but if that's something that bothers you, you've been warned. Not that I liked it, but it didn't impact my judgement or enjoyment of the story.
WARNING! Drowning, bullying, sexism, misogyny, abuse, corporal punishments.
Will appeal to: Those who enjoy narratives that play with time and what-ifs. Those who like to speculate about the relationship between cause and effect.

Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Odile is an awkward, quiet girl vying for a coveted seat on the Conseil. If she earns the position, she’ll decide who may cross her town’s heavily guarded borders. On the other side, it’s the same valley, the same town. Except to the east, the town is twenty years ahead in time. To the west, it’s twenty years behind. When Odile recognizes two visitors she wasn’t supposed to see, she realizes that the parents of her friend Edme have been escorted across the border from the future, on a mourning tour, to view their son while he’s still alive in Odile’s present. Sworn to secrecy in order to preserve the timeline, Odile now becomes the Conseil’s top candidate. Yet she finds herself drawing closer to the doomed boy, imperiling her entire future. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to  for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.


In the modern publishing landscape, The Other Valley is one of a kind. You might call it a time-travel book, except there's no actual time travel involved, nor it is a sci-fi novel: as a matter of fact, it would be more accurate to call it a speculative book with a multi-temporal perspective, since the actual interaction of characters from different time planes is kept to a minimum (by the way, if you're wondering about the consequences, the worldbuilding in that regard allows for a clever and inventive solution). Also, Howard created a world that feels dated, yet he made sure not to suggest a particular time frame for the events he depicted (nor he hinted at a specific - if fictional - setting, though some of the characters' names and the title of "gendarme" would fit with the French-speaking areas of Canada, the author's country). Last but not least, there's no explanation whatsoever of the three-valley setup, and no reference to its connection - or lack thereof - with the world outside, and it's just as well. The events unfold inside of a closed system, a (not-so-magical) bubble that helps you suspend your disbelief and adds a sense of doom, caused not only by the lengths the valleys' authorities go in order to prevent the residents' future selves from changing their past, but also by the stagnant, melancholic feeling that pervades the valleys themselves, where there hardly seems to be a chance for the status quo to get altered even in the present. [...]


As I mentioned in the "Age" section above, while the book starts off with the protagonist as a teen, it switches to an adult perspective later on, and we get to see the impact of an event that rocked Odile's life in the past and the implications of a certain choice young Odile made because of that event. Mind you - it isn't that simple or that linear, of course. While on one hand The Other Valley is, indeed, a coming-of-age novel, it is first and foremost a story about choices, consequences, regrets, and the prisons we build for ourselves; about the way a single event or decision may cause a domino effect that you can't escape, even if you happen to know what's coming next and you try to head in a different direction. But it's also a story about fighting for a better life in a hostile, rigid environment - one particularly harsh on women and outcasts (and despite the old-fashioned atmosphere of the book, we know that the modern world isn't much far from that, if at all). And in the end, it's a story about the lengths you would go in order to give yourself - or more precisely, your younger self - a second chance...and in order to save someone else as well. If you've ever dreamed of being able to alter the course of your past, and you're inclined to muse on ethical and philosophical topics - but you also like narratives about growing up, finding your place in the world and falling in love for the first time, or about enduring and being an unlikely hero - The Other Valley is a book that you shouldn't miss. For my part, I'm planning to buy a physical copy and revisit this story in the future, and I'll be on the lookout for whatever Howard will come up with after this brilliant debut.

For more Adult books click here.
For more Contemporary/Contemporary with a Twist books click here.
For more books that defy categories click here.


  1. Oh I really like the sound of this one. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

  2. Sounds like quite an interesting concept which was executed well. So, there's falling in love? You know I like that.

  3. I love what ifs. And that's weird about the no quotation thing. I hate that (except when I do it due to lack of editing har) . But domno effect, second chances... catnip. I usually like an explanation for the worldbuilding too, but here I can imagine that's secondary to the other stuff happening.

    1. More like, we don't need an explanation because the point of the story doesn't lie in it...


  4. Your review of "The Other Valley" really nails what makes it cool. The whole not-really-time-travel thing and the mysterious setting without a clear time frame? Super intriguing. The closed system vibe and the doom in the air sound like a wild ride. And your take on choices, consequences, and the coming-of-age stuff adds a real depth to the story. The fact that you're planning to grab a physical copy for a revisit says it all.

    1. Thanks! I recommend it to everyone who doesn't necessarily like time travel in the sci-fi sense, but is a fan of speculative fiction.

    2. Yeah it seems like a perfect one to get your feet wet with the concept.

  5. This sounds very intriguing. Glad you enjoyed it, Roberta. ☕📚🐉😊

  6. This sounds really intriguing. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your review.

  7. Closed systems like that can make for interesting stories. I'm glad you found such a unique book! I feel like that's something you especially love. And your whole section about what the story is about, choices and all that, very nicely written and makes the book sound intriguing :-)

    1. "And your whole section about what the story is about, choices and all that, very nicely written and makes the book sound intriguing"
      Aw, thank you! I hope I was able to make it interesting for potential readers.

  8. Okay I am SOLD. when you said "If you've ever dreamed of being able to alter the course of your past, and you're inclined to muse on ethical and philosophical topics " I was like YES YES and YES. I neeeed. This sounds really good! Thanks for the great review!


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