In the year 2173, when humanity is on the brink of extinction some 200 years after a devastating nuclear war, a teenage girl named Torin Sinclair finds out that she is the exact lookalike of Countess Sophie Chotek, who, in the alternate timeline of the book's setting, died in 1885 of rheumatic fever and never had the opportunity to meet Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Torin is sent back in time to take Sophie's place and, if possible, avert the catastrophe awaiting the world...
This work contains examples of:
- After the End: In 2173, the human race has been reduced to a number of scattered outposts hanging on to existence by their fingernails, and is facing extinction within several generations.
- Apocalypse How: Class 2, threatening to become Class 3b; the nuclear war that destroyed civilization in 1953.
- Decadent Court: The Habsburg court at the Hofburg in Vienna and elsewhere. Franz Ferdinand confesses to Torin/Sophie that he has to keep a further distance from Crown Prince Rudolf than he would like, and also has to pretend to be several things that he really isn't, such as hostile to Hungarians, to keep below the courtiers' radar.
- Domed Hometown: Outpost 32, located in Nunavut, Canada, in which Torin Sinclair and her brother Taggart live.
- Faking Amnesia: Because there is so little historical data available on Sophie and Torin doesn't even speak German, she has to do this when she is transported to Sophie's sickbed in 1885 Bohemia to avoid being found out by the Countess' family and to learn all the things she needs to learn to carry out her impersonation successfully.
- For Want of a Nail: Sophie's death from rheumatic fever at the age of 17, in 1885, is the event that leads ultimately to the atomic war and the impending extinction of humanity.
- Historical Domain Character: Most of the characters in the Austro-Hungarian segments of the books, from Sophie Chotek and Franz Ferdinand themselves on down the line.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who, as emperor of Austria-Hungary, is blamed by the people of 2173 as the prime actor behind the nuclear war that doomed humanity to slow extinction.
- Impoverished Patrician: The Choteks, part of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Bohemia, live in straitened circumstances because Sophie's father, the head of the family, earns only a small salary from his work as an Austro-Hungarian diplomat, much of which he has to devote to carrying out the duties of his office. The family lives in a big but ramshackle house, and much effort is devoted to keeping up appearances so that the girls will be able to attract well-to-do prospective husbands.
- Of Corset Hurts: Torin, as Sophie, has to wear a corset and bustle as part of proper Victorian lady's dress, and does not find them at all comfortable.
- Old Maid: The Chotek family fears that the sisters are in danger of becoming unmarriageable because of their poverty and, in Marie's case, because of her relatively advanced age of 21 (Marie is a little over 21 when she's introduced, and is in love with the slightly younger Jaroslav Thun).
- Shown Their Work: The author conducted extensive research on the life and times of Sophie Chotek, visiting many of the places in Austria and Czechoslovakia where she lived with her family as a young girl and then with Franz Ferdinand.