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A laudable effort, just not my cup of tea
on June 15, 2009
When I first picked this book up, I found it distressingly uneven. I liked the Dark-Ages aesthetic (here's a book where the protagonist thinks nothing of sleeping on flea-infested mattresses and regularly cowers in terror from threats both human and supernatural), and certain bits definitely left an impression - a rather agonizing description of a medieval trip to the dentist especially has stuck with me. But the main character never grabbed my attention; frankly, he reminded me of a heroine in a romance novel in that he seemed a passive placeholder for the reader rather than a person in his own right. While I admire the author's skill at world-building, I far prefer character-driven stories, and the characters just weren't that interesting - they seemed to be little more than sketched-out archetypes, driven by the whim of their environment.
Having given it some thought, however, it strikes me that this was probably the author's intention; such a style had any number of "classic" literary antecedents (Stephen Crane and his short story "The Open Boat" come to mind, especially). But frankly, I find said style to waver between "tiresomely pretentious" and "just plain annoying", so I think on the whole I'm the wrong person to be judging it.
Taking the above into consideration, I'm giving the book three stars - it didn't grab me, but I think the author did at least a moderately good job achieving what he set out to do.