This was the first novel I read from Tom Harper, and I was really impressed by his writing style. It was very coherent and fast-paced, I didn’t expect it to have two stories though. The present-day story about Nick following Gillian’s tracks and a first-person narration/confession by Johann (whom we would later know as the famous Johann Gutenberg), were written parallel with each other and they slowly merged as the events unfolded. I loved this interlaced, fast paced story line of two stories, five centuries apart from each other running simultaneously at same time. I was hooked to book right by the first chapter and found myself completely lost in it. I found medieval story very intriguing and compelling. The character of Joahnn is full of faults and very human, very intriguing at the same time. The author portrayed his obsessions, his shortcomings, his struggles in a captivating way. All through the book I felt completely hooked by Joahnn’s story. The book is kind of long for this kind of plot.
I was expecting a cross between Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” and “Angel and Demons” upon looking at the cover, a Dominican priest usual type of wear. Anyway, I can’t say that I’m disappointed or that I love this book, but I’m sure that I’ve enjoyed it, though not tremendously. It was not just what I was expecting. I mean, they went all through that and Gillian risked her life just to unravel the mystery about the Master of the Playing Cards. But the biggest surprise of all was the involvement of Gutenberg among all the chaos, secrecy, and blasphemy. It seems so surreal, nevertheless, who exactly knows what happened during those? At first I was disoriented when I read the first chapter about the confessions and of course although I know that it must have some relation to the main story, it was a long time coming before I realized its importance. The short chapters make it easy to follow, the author always leaves a cliffhanger at the end of the chapters to keep one hooked. The stories never dragged, they just made you ask a lot of questions. What was it that Gillian found that’s worth killing a lot of lives for? Why was it secret? Was Gillian still alive? What’s the big deal anyway? All of those were answered of course, and it ended in Johann’s story.
I liked how the author’s imagination ran wild with filling in the gaps about Johann’s life. He really built a solid character who’s corrupt even in the beginning and somehow found redemption by freeing himself of his obsession. He really had it hard growing up, finding a passion for being a goldsmith, perfecting the craft and somewhere along the way he needed to run and start a new life. He did this a lot of times until it didn’t do him good, the end was unexpected and a little open-ended but it gave a light feeling. Now, about Nick and Emily’s traversing Europe, that’s the part where I really couldn’t put the book down. The author’s angle is about the book, and although it involved the Church, it’s not something scandalous as Jesus having married Mary Magdalene, but then again there’s a religious figure ordering the deaths of many. I felt their anxiety every time they get closer to the target, someone was also targeting them in mysterious ways. I also liked the “Gothic Lair” episodes.
I was really in tune with them that when Nick realized he’s not so eager to get back with Gillian when he sees her, that I started to hate her, and for a good reason too. I don’t want to spoil anything for the potential readers. For some who’re just looking for a quick read, this is not for you. It’s a comprehensive historical fiction based on some facts, the imagery was excellent, the author’s descriptions of the places and the process of early printing was laudable. I’m looking forward to reading his other works.
I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words #5 from 10th – 16th July 2016
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