James Webb wrote a great book - "Fields of Fire" - about the Vietnam war. The Emperor's General is pathetic. The author must have become bored with his subject halfway through the book, and then decided to try to end it gracefully. There were no engaging twists or dramatic turns, interesting dilemmas or real personal conflicts. Everything sounded contrived, as if this was the first manuscript by an aspiring writer. The narrator was horrible! He tries to impersonate a young Japanese girl by lisping softly and an aged Japanese general by simply lisping. I regret wasting my time listening to this.
What a pity that publishing houses have abolished editors, those anonymous people with a red pen who interceded on behalf of the reader's. If an editor had read this book, one third of it should have been deleted. Every second chapter focused on why Elizabeth didn't want to marry.
It almost became hilarious when the narrator switches between three "voices." A fairly decent Queens English, a Scotish brogue and "Yesterday I arrived here from Bulgaria." This third "continental" dialect is then used for ambassadors and suitors from Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and the Vatican. Even the desperate "Mary" suddenly alternates between Scotish and Bulgarian. Money and time wasted.
Some novels are intended to be epic. This means that they wind on an on for ever while you keep waiting for the story to take off. Maybe the next chapter will be a little more interesting?
Annie Proulx excels at writing epic novels where the tide of events runs slower than the Don. Her characters are like butterflies, slowly finding their way across a meadow by turning this way and that way. Introducing yet another queer character into That Old Ace in the Hole does not help very much, because the story still remains fragmented.
I get the feeling that even Annie got fed up on this one before she reached the finishing line. Question is - does anyone bother to read a novel, intent on unearthing any gems, before it goes off to the publisher?
Four stars goes to Arliss Howard, who is a magnificent reader. I'll probably end up listening to the whole novel once again, simply because listening to his voice is such a pleasure.
The premise of this pulp is really conspirational. Large chunks are rehashed straight from "Holy Blood, Holy Grail", by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln (1982). They claimed that Jesus survived the Crucifixion, and together with Mary Magdalene founded a bloodline that became the Merovingians in France (protected by the Knights Templar and the fake secret society Prieure de Sion). It's soft-headed and hardly even entertaining.
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