I bought this book based on a recommendation at a local independent book store while in pursuit of a local author (Washington DC). Only in reviewing it do I realize it’s the first book in a trilogy, an allergy recently developed from Annihilation. Why did I read another book in a trilogy?
It’s not an overly fair complaint, since I eventually enjoyed the book quite a bit. (And that it had nothing to do with Washington DC, but I took the recommendation without even reading the jacket.) What prevented me from enjoying it completely was the formal, stiff language Norman used to evoke the setting of the story, old timey-wimey Canada, a remote part of Newfoundland in the early 1900’s. The first half of the book is heavy on exposition, laboring on descriptions of people and places, in order to set up the circumstances that unfurl in the second half of the book.
After I acclimated to the language, and got to the second half, I enjoyed the book much more. Unfortunately, you can’t get to the second half of the book without the first half. Even if you skipped the first half, you’d miss out on the development of Margaret Handle, one of the more entertaining female characters I have read in a while. Talk about a girl who is making the most of living in a small town. She was a riot and I wish the book had given more time to her and her exploits. Is it too much to hope that is the second or third book?
The second half of the book is actually a bit of a romp. It almost has the feeling of being written by another author, or that Norman finally got to a point where he could enjoy the characters and the world he created. It’s loaded with themes that resonate in our modern world: murder, jealousy, infidelity, bungled justice, the claustrophobia of a small town, the enchantment of cities unknown, good and bad relationships, marrying for love (or not), and more. It reminded me of how, once you get past the old English, you can interpret Shakespeare and understand/apply it in very current and modern ways. Now that I am used to the language, I will look for books two and three and keep you posted. After I look at the book jacket of course!