This book was a study in unrealized potential. Some other reviewers have complained first and foremost about the historical inaccuracies, and those weThis book was a study in unrealized potential. Some other reviewers have complained first and foremost about the historical inaccuracies, and those were certainly clear and present, but I was able to move past those fairly easily. What got me was how good this book *could* have been.
The story itself was almost good; in some ways it almost reminded me of Phantom of the Opera. But it fell short every time. The main characters were almost clearly drawn, but their actions kept veering into the unrealistic and melodramatic. The female lead is a teenager, lives in poverty, assists her father in his bloodletting practice, is emotionally and mentally abused by her mother, but goes all grrl power and acts determined to pursue her dream of becoming a physician. In 17th century Bohemia. Uh huh, sure. That's plausible. The male romantic character appears fairly early in the story, largely disappears for half the book, reappears two-thirds of the way through declaring his love for the female lead (sorry, spoiler) and his intention to marry her... after briefly meeting her once. Right. The terror exacted upon the village by Don Julius is palpable, and he may be the most clearly and truly depicted character. The author jammed historical contemporaries in and had them cross paths (Jesenius and Kepler, among others), which they may well have done, but these interactions were - at most - minorly germane to the story. She addressed the struggle between the Hapsburg royal family for control of the throne, but only skimmed the surface.
Basically, this was a good first draft, an excellent outline, but desperately needed a capable author to flesh out the plot, refine the characters into believability, and enhance the historical aspect (to say nothing of the historical facts) a la Victor Hugo (though maybe I was the only person who enjoyed the historical interludes in Les Mis)....more
I've enjoyed pretty much anything Meltzer has done so far. Dead Even was a little amateur at times, but it was early for him still. The First CounseI've enjoyed pretty much anything Meltzer has done so far. Dead Even was a little amateur at times, but it was early for him still. The First Counsel and The Tenth Justice were excellent, and he hooked me from the first with The Zero Game. But in this one... well, it took me many, many months to get through. The plot was convoluted, the characters were faint, and for half the book, I was wondering if he was trying to be Dan Brown, which would have been too bad because Meltzer is a far better writer in the first place.
By about, I'd say, 2/3 of the way in, he seemed to fall back into his own style, and the pace picked up dramatically, and I knocked the last 1/3 out in no time. It turned out okay in the end, but I was worried for a while.
3 stars because it was pretty decent, but I expect better out of him. ...more