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Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, not riveting, May 28, 2009
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This review is from: The Black Chalice (Hardcover)
First of all beware of the editorial review of Cahners Business and of some reader's too: they are quite far from precise, stating non existent themes and wrong story lines.

Set in a -not too- fictional XII century Germany the book presents us with a plausible but not exact frame of events and locations. Those readers looking for novels where the fictional characters act consistently with history as we know it might be disappointed.
For instance the centre of events itself is the non existing duchy of Reinland (sic).

Many reviewers commend Ms Jakober's prose as lyrical, beautiful and such. I disagree: I found it most of all proficient, to the point but devoid of any particular intrinsic beauty. Should I be compelled to state a definition about it and about the general atmosphere of the book it would be "earthy". There is everywhere a sense of life depicted as it is, in all its materialism and crudeness. Life comes from earth and can be beutiful or bad but it will always be grass/soil stained. I liked this attitude a lot by the way.

Another thing I liked A LOT is the author's choice of Paul, the villain (the real villain), as the narrative voice for most of the novel. This proved an extremely proficient way of highlighting the other character's actions and it is a "fresh", new device. A device Ms Jakober never falls in love with, shifting to a third person narrative when necessary.

While Paul is perfectly rounded, an outstanding study in character, very much alive with all his confusion, self deluding, arrogance, ingnorance, contraddictions and unrequited loves all the others, perhaps a toll to pay to the choice of such a peculiar narrating voice, are out of focus in a varying degree. Karelian, for instance, is very well explained but hardly "felt" and the others never stand out, not even Raven.
As a consequence the story rather left me cold which is never a good thing in a -fantasy- novel.

Despite the author's self evident aversion to many aspects of Christianity this book still does not read like a pamphlet. Believers will probably disagree with me but the Church has had many a heavy responsibility in the course of history. This is why choosing pious Paul as a main narrating voice is particularly effective: through his ambiguities and sufferings we really see the traditional teachings of the Church for what they are and for the havoc they wrought even in good people's life.

I am not entirely sure -quite the contrary- traditional Germanic religion was so unbiased as far as sexuality was concerned but I loved Karelian attitude all the same: he is indifferent to other people's sexuality, he has had experiences with men and explicitly state that love between knights was by far not the worst thing he saw happening during the crusade.
The author's message here is extremely clear and sensible and can be easily integrated in the story if only from the point of view of a pagan ante litteram cult.
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