Monday, May 12, 2008

The Arthurian Omen - G.G. Vandagriff

Title: The Arthurian OMen
Author: G.G. Vandagriff
Pages: 322
Rating: 1/5

"The so-called Prince Henry might ravage the country until no one was left, but he could never destroy the spirit of Cymru. It was eternal. It would lie on in the hills, the rivers, the land, until Arthur returned to reclaim them."

The Good: I received this book as an Early Reviewer on Library Thing. It's a story about a manuscript proving the existence of King Arthur and what various parties will do to get their hands on it. Maren Southcott's sister, Rachael, an academic was on its trail before she was murdered. Now Maren is on the hunt for not only her sister's killer but also the manuscript.

I was really looking forward to this book because I love Wales and its mythology. The prologue, set in 15th century Wales sets the tone and pace for the novel. We meet Brother Gruffyd who hides the manuscript from soon-to-be Henry IV. The syntax and diction fit with the time period and I hoped to see more of these flashbacks to show us Owain Glyndwr, an Arthur-like figure for Wales who could play a parallel hero to Maren.

The Bad: I found it very difficult to get through this book. I would categorize it as a quick read, the kind of book you read in an airport to pass the time but I couldn't read more than a few pages at a time.

The plot is very disjointed. In fact, I would say the book became more about Maren and the various problems with her marriage and child than about the manuscript. The focus of the book jumped around thanks to various subplots that were nothing but distracting. There were even times I forgot Maren was looking for the manuscript. There were too many coincidences, loose ends and a lack of clues for me to enjoy the story.

As well, there were too many characters for me to keep track of, meaning they weren't fleshed out enough, they weren't believable. For example, it seemed like every man Maren met fell in love with her. And I can't tell you how many times the word "bigamous" was used because there were too many to count.

The most disappointing aspect though was the lack of mythology. I expected with the story taking place in Wales that we would see and hear more about King Arthur and Owain Glyndwr but more often than not we were subjected to mountains of dialogue. I would even say that the setting was missing for the first fifty pages of the book.

One reason for the disjointedness of the novel is the story behind its origins. Vandagriff suffered from an illness that required her to undergo a procedure that wiped out most of the last ten years of her life. She had been in the midst of writing "The Arthurian Omen". Fortunately her doctor was able to find the right medications to manage her illness. By this time she had found the half-finished manuscript on her computer and I think this is the main reason for the story not meshing together properly.

The Ugly: This book really wasn't ready for publishing. It reads like a very rough draft. It's wordy and suffers from a lack of focus in the plot. It's very dialogue heavy with various characters jumping to wild conclusions. The reader is left floating without a proper setting to grab onto and we're missing an important story component, the mythology of Wales. The worst part is this could have been a good book if it had been edited properly.

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