Thursday, 2 January 2014

ARC Review ~ A Burnable Book: A Novel by Bruce Holsinger

A Burnable Book: A Novel
ARC (paperback) received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: 30th January 2014

Publisher: Harper Collins

London, 1385.

A city of shadows and fear, in a kingdom ruled by the headstrong young King Richard II, haunted by the spectre of revolt. A place of poetry and prophecy, where power is bought by blood.

For John Gower, part-time poet and full-time trader in information, secrets are his currency. When close confidant, fellow poet Geoffrey Chaucer, calls in an old debt, Gower cannot refuse. The request is simple: track down a missing book. It should be easy for a man of Gower’s talents, who knows the back-alleys of Southwark as intimately as the courts and palaces of Westminster.

But what Gower does not know is that this book has already caused one murder, and that its contents could destroy his life. Because its words are behind the highest treason – a conspiracy to kill the king and reduce his reign to ashes…

My Opinion

When I first received an email from the publisher with an offer to review this book I will admit I was hesitant and did have to read everything a few times before deciding to give it a try. Historical fiction isn't my usual genre of choice but it was the thriller aspect and the murderous implications for royalty that caught my attention. It has taken me a while to get through this book - and it wasn't without problems - but the author won me over by the end which surprised me greatly.

A Burnable Book has a very authentic setting and it is clear that the author has clearly done his research into the time period, customs and mannerisms. It enveloped you in the 14th century and I felt the setting was faultless in its crafting. All the information, down to the smallest detail were intricately woven into the time period and it made for a believable setting and aided the realism of both the book and characters.

The start of A Burnable Book intrigued me, with the murder of an unknown girl. It set the scene for everything but after this chapter, I hit my biggest problem with the book. For me I found that there was a significant lack of aspects that made this book a thriller until the last 100 pages. Personally I found the pacing to be much too slow, with the book containing large chunks of text that didn't move it on quick enough and a lack of action. The sections where characters interacted where good but in the first half - maybe 2/3rd - there was a significant lack of this in some sections.

I say sections because Bruce Holsinger created a large cast of characters, and while some are written in first person from John Gower's point of view, the prominent part of the book is written in third. It jumps from character to character giving a very good over view of everything that is going on and I think it worked. I'm not usual a fan of big casts as there are too many individuals to focus on but what made it work in Holsinger's book is the fact that at everything links together. It also works because it keeps you guessing as to what is really going on and who is really the one pulling the strings.

The sections about the girl's murder and the hunt for the book after 50% where by far the best sections. These had good pacing, a lot of speech and kept me engaged. I will admit my attention did wain in some of the other sections - especially when new characters were introduced. However, what won me over with this book was the ending (last 100 pages). It made all the slow sections worth while and I was glad I stuck with it. The author cleverly leads you on numerous false paths before finally revealing everything and it does keep you guessing. There were a few parts I figured out but it was nothing in comparison to the big picture.

Overall A Burnable Book is a good read. It is not a quick read but if you stick with it the revelations and plot development are well worth it. I would have liked more actions and bit better pacing to keep my interest throughout the start but it delivers in the long run. If you like historical fiction give this a go win it's released.

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