Do you love a particular author? Why do you love that one? For the writing style? Genre? Flow of the stories? Character development? Uniqueness of the storyline? There could be a lot of reasons, why you love a certain author. And when the author you love, changes gear and writes about something you didn't expect… do you still love him/her with same intensity?
As I've professed on multiple occasions… I LOVE Matthew Reilly. This Australian firework of an author is the one whose work reads like an action movie. A well executed, out of the world, thrill inducing, adrenaline pumping hardcore ACTION movie. I love his flare of unusual storylines. The ease with which his characters step out of the pages and make you, lose your breath just by reading the amazing things they are doing. He is the guy who is master of cliffhangers. He is the author that has brought to his readers at the edge of the seats and made is perfectly normal to read sentences like “Dragons are hurling trucks at me”… J so when he came out with a book about a Chess Tournament that was held in 1500’s… it makes me wonder, if I should really pick it up… so the paperbound sat on my shelf for a long long time.looking at me with pleading eyes, urging to me reach out and read through its pages, immerse myself in words of my fav author… and I kept averting my gaze, reaching out and picking books above and below…forever running away from the ‘possibility’ of a disappointment. (I must confess here that I was avoiding it coz I REALLY thought it was ABOUT chess, and I'm really hopeless when it comes to strategy games)
I finally picked this up when I was on my way back from Prague. (I know it’s a delayed review, but I was really busy with other ‘stuff’). It took me a little over a 12 days to finish the book. It does NOT talk about the quality of book though…it simply owing to my hectic schedule and lack of personal time that caused this duration.
It is a Matthew Reilly fiction for sure. There are a lot of MR special things in it. There’s mystery. There’s intrigue. There’s adrenaline and there’s action. However, this is a very different MR. The mystery is wailed, intrigue mingled with unease, action subdued. Possibly because he was writing about historical figures. Possibly because this was not a hardcore action. Possibly because of the period of the book. Or may be, just may be because this is the first ‘first-person’ book MR has written in a female voice. I cant really pinpoint what it is about this book that makes it different. There’s an undercurrent in the whole novel that keeps you uneasy throughout. The novel is as much about politics as it is about murder mystery and equally about shaping of a young female mind as anything else. True to his style, he writes it with a flow that makes it unputdownable. However there are elements in the story that disgust you, make you want to recoil in unease… corruption of state and god-men is nothing new, but seeing it from the eyes of teenager makes it more uncomfortable I guess. The world MR builds is equally realistic and true…. In the past and in present… and it’s THAT timelessness of corruption of man that makes you sad. Had I known that the novel will make want to sit with my head in my hands upon finishing it; I might have not picked it up when I did. But at no point during and after reading it, am I regretting reading it. The book is a mature book. Compared to all his other works, this one is the most unsettling one. I swear, I did not expect that from his books. And now as I write this review, I realize that I expected from him a Vin Diesel action flick while he thrust upon me a Clint Eastwood classic. Am happy.
There are a lot of elements in this novel that are not appropriate for immature reader. And please note, that I say immature not young…. It’s a sensitive novel and people with childish disposition might not appreciate what the novel tries to convey. For a change, MR writes a novel that truly has a message… J how delightful is THAT?
Verdict: don’t expect the regular fireworks of Matthew Reilly novels. There is no end-of-the-world battle and fancy villain and dashing hero. The battleground here is the mind and hero is courage and brain-power. Touch this only if you want to be reformed and question your beliefs… read only if you think you are ready to be mature.