Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reading again

Well, I ended up finishing The Tomb of Hercules after all. Curiously, the eponymous tomb really isn't very important to the plot, nor does the search for, preoccupation with, or even the thought or mention of it make much of an appearance in the book.

Not great, by any means. Not bad. I think Hunt for Atlantis was better, even though McDermott clearly was trying to do more to develop his characters. Or, at least the two main characters, Eddie and Nina. I feel like he felt he needed to write another book but wasn't quite sure what to write about, so Tomb feels a little like a cobbled together not quite story.

My earlier almost ditching of the book wasn't really because it was bad--although clearly it also wasn't exactly good either--but was more related to the pressure I felt to read some of the other stuff in my queue. But, I persevered, finished and will (maybe) someday read the next book in the series, which if the title is any guide, has to do with the search for Excalibur (the title is The Secret of Excalibur. Not really a mystery there.)

Curiously, Excalibur and Arthurian legendry in general informs the other book I recently read--which I blasted through easily just today, but which, granted, is a bit shorter at about 350 pages. That book is Dark Jenny, which is an interesting and unusual hybrid; noir/hardboiled detective and a fantasy milieu that is very obviously borrowed from Arthuriana, but made a bit more noirish and tawdry, and with the names changed up just for good measure.

I very much enjoyed it. Alex Bledsoe (the author) clearly has a handle on the hardboiled voice. Curiously, for the fun of it, I poked around a bit and read some reviews online. For fantasy fans who read it, that was usually what they struggled with the most. "Anachronisms" (a ridiculous accusation in a fantasy setting, actually, but that's neither here nor there) "modern" names (that actually date from Medieval Saxon and Celtic extraction mostly, but readers often forget that) and a wry, cynical Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe voice from the main character (the book is written in first person) and a dark, unflinching look at the Arthurian milieu that would make even Bernard Cornwell cringe. The complaints from the online reviews reveal, in my opinion, an unfamiliarity with the conventions of noir fiction and a complete missing of the point, which just illustrates the point that I've made before that fantasy fans tend to be too insular and provincial in their tastes and need to "get out more" read some other genres a bit, and broaden their horizons.

I think at the end, Bledsoe wasn't quite sure how to end the novel, and it feels occasionally like it just stops on a slightly unsatisfying note. But be that as it may, the novel was very fun to read, and I blasted through it at a furious clip, surprising even myself to knock it out before the kids went to bed... on a workday no less. Highly recommended.

It's technically the third in a series, but each book is (apparently) standalone. I never once felt like I was missing anything by not having read the first two yet. I do, however, have the first two already checked out from the library, and they'll soon hit my On Deck list too.

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