I love historical fiction, especially when it is set in the Roman Republic or Empire. This is the first Didius Falco novel I have read, and I found it generally entertaining. I quite like Falco himself, and the way in which the author depicted Rome and Roman Britain. Everything was going nicely until Falco (a plebeian gumshoe detective in 70 AD) started interacting directly with senior members of the imperial family, including the Emperor himself. Falco seemed not the slightest bit awed or even outwardly respectful. He was even fairly rude to them. Not only that, but Falco also spurned, in a most rude way, a high honour bestowed on him by the Emperor. His behaviour was not exactly irrational (there were some barely good reasons), but his behaviour was difficult to believe in the historical and social context of ancient Rome. I found this aspect of the book significantly detracting from the aura of historical realism that surrounded an otherwise 'ripping yarn' from classical Rome.
I have always enjoyed medieval history and historical fiction. My favourite setting is England, and my favourite century is the fourteenth. This is a travel guide to England in the fourteenth century, and it really brought the time and place brilliantly to life. It is all in the present tense, and really does succeed in putting you right there among villeins, yeomen, sheriffs, forest outlaws, minstrelry, the 'great pestilence' (black death), manorial courts, etc etc. Loved every minute of it.
I bought this because it was written by Stephen King and I have greatly enjoyed pretty much everything he has written, including the much-maligned "Cell". What a disappointment this book turned out to be.
First of all, this is basically a love story. That's ok, I was interested in how King might approach the genre. The trouble is, the main character (Lisey Landon) is just plain boring. She appears to have no life, interest, or friends of her own. Her only relationships seem to be with her sisters.
Even 2 years after his death, Lisey is still obesessing over Scott every waking minute, and in her dreams. This gets really tedious. The tedium is only partly alleviated by the stalker with whom Lisey needs to deal, and by the flashbacks to Scott's childhood where some seriously King-style supernaturalism is going on in the form of were-wolfism, parallel existences, and some nasty but mysterious beast called 'Long Boy'.
Like many other reviewers I found the constant overuse of catch-words and catch-phrases ('smucking', 'bad gunkie', 'strap it on', etc ad nauseam) intensely irritating. Unlike some, I was able to follow the somewhat overcomplicated structure of many of the flashbacks, though there were times I came too close to literally losing the plot.
I also came close on several occasions to giving up on this book before the end. I didn't because it was King, and I was sure he would spring a surprise and turn the whole experience around. It didn't happen. I should have given up and used those hours for something else.
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