Tuesday, November 27, 2007

book review: The Anasazi Series

Anasazi Series

I did the silliest of things with this series of books. Somewhere inside my fading brain I told myself that these three books were not a series but just happened to be set in similar times. I was half way between book three before I realised that there was obviously something to be read before embarking on this one. Do not take this as a statement on the quality of the stories. Do take this as my ability to be amazingly thick and completely stubborn. Having made that realisation, I then finished book three and went on to book two... have I mention thick-headedness yet?
Now that I have finished all three books [and have read the last book twice] I feel qualified to offer up my opinion to anyone interested in hearing it – one of my favourite things to do.
I loved all three books! Yes, there were a few things that stuck out, but I was prepared to lay them aside in favour of a good storyline and great characters. I do this a lot. For instance, I will watch anything that Brad Pitt’s in whether the movie is good or not [though Troy was hard to stomach at times, but hey, Brad took his shirt off so I was there!]. This probably doesn’t say a lot for me so I’ll get back to the Anasazi series.
I desperately want to go back to New Mexico now and I lay the blame for my increased wanderlust directly at the authors’ feet. The descriptions of past and present New Mexico are real, earthy, and mysterious. The archaeological scenes were interesting and did not go into info-dump land and the relationships – between characters, people and location, modern and past were all in-depth and very well-crafted. The unravelling complexity of the situations were mirrored and connected in such fine detail that they carry the reader through from start to finish. Minor characters have sufficient depth to carry their own weight in the story and the protagonists are sufficiently evil and twisted, and given enough thought that they do not come across as being entirely evil. After all, what appears as evil to one culture may be wisdom to another.
Storylines are also connected from one book to another with the occurrences in book one being the “backstory” for the final conflict in book three. Romantic tension between main characters comes to a satisfactory and not clich├ęd ending.
So, the things that stuck out – the characters from the past sounded too modern at times. I’m willing to believe that people from ancient times knew more about many things than modern humans often give them credit for. In most cases, with this story, the language allows for modern-seeming medical processes, assumptions and responses. Occasionally, however, it doesn’t and these instances, I at least, find jarring. But the story was too good to let those moments stop me from reading – don’t let them stop you either.
You can find out all about Kathleen and Michael Gear at their website and I encourage you to read their biographies and browse through their list of books. I’m sure that these two authors are as interesting as any characters they’ve dreamed up.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

book review: The Historian

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I picked up this novel in a sale and put it aside to read during a recent break from the real world. Waiting the few weeks between point-of-sale and point-of-reading was nearly painful, but worth the torture. I sat up in bed the first night of my retreat from life and dived right in. Not having read the back-cover blurb since the book store, I’d forgotten what the story was about and by the time I turned the lights off was thinking perhaps I should read it during daylight hours. If you’re at all squeamish about scary stories [like I am, in particular when there are no traffic sounds, it’s pitch black outside except for silver-misted trees, it’s breezy and branches are scratching on the window] you might want to take that into consideration. If not, have at it!

The first couple of chapters of The Historian were a little heavy going and at times confusing. I put this down to the fact that the narrator was a historian telling us a story about other historians and a lot of historic research. Don’t panic. This is all necessary and, just as it was worth the wait to read, it is also worth the effort to get through the necessary backstory. Especially as all the stories intertwine to make a great adventure and produce a gripping end.

I learnt a lot about history, researching facts and legends, and about Dracula, and was drawn right into a world where Dracula just might be, not only real, but still living. Yes, I know that there was an historic Dracula – Vlad the Impaler – but The Historian brought him right out of history and into the 21st century. I was scared, but riveted and, in a similar way after reading The Da Vinci Code, wanted to rush out and scour old bookstores, libraries, archives and museums.

I was also fascinated by Ms. Kostova’s description of regions and countries that I have rarely thought about, let alone visited, and I must say a heartfelt thanks for dragging me off to the combined nether regions of Europe and history.

Elizabeth Kostova is a wonderful storyteller and I was ready to believe most of what she showed me in The Historian. Being the cynic deep down inside though, I did find it hard to come to terms with such a young girl travelling the world in search of her father. I suspect it’s the “mother of teenagers” in me. Vlad was fully believable. That also could be the whole mother thing coming out.

I recommend obtaining a copy of The Historian, finding yourself a nice cosy corner and indulge in a few hours of adventurous historical fiction... no matter what time of day or night you prefer.