I'll preface this with a statement that I've never been a fan of history. I have a vivid memory of complaining to a friend about having to learn it in...moreI'll preface this with a statement that I've never been a fan of history. I have a vivid memory of complaining to a friend about having to learn it in school. These days, I've come to terms with its importance as part of the national curriculum, but I still would never come close to counting myself as any kind of "history buff".
How is it then, that I come to be reading historical fiction? And not just once, but twice (three times, if you count The Walled Orchard as two separate books)! The answer: Tom Holt. The more I read by him, the more I desire to read more of his books. He nestles snugly between my love of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams and his books are consistently good. Sometimes so good you just have to put off all those important things you're meant to be doing (sleeping, eating, getting dressed like a civilised human being) so you can carry on reading.
But this isn't a normal Tom Holt book. This is a Thomas Holt book. That means he's reigned in the humour and he's messing with history rather than reality. In no way is this detrimental to the book. He's still a master of imaginative metaphors, without having to make them funny. More importantly, he's still a master storyteller.
The story is framed as being told by two ageing Norsemen, telling it while they wait for their cart to be fixed. The way Tom's written it, you can feel yourself sat there with them. Their voices are authentic and nuanced; you long to fall into the book and to really be there, listening to the story being told first-hand.
The period(s) of history in question were something I only had passing knowledge of before I picked this up, so I can't be one to nitpick details. But if there's anything to really be picked at, you should put it aside and let yourself enjoy this book for what it is; a fantastically told story of an amazing adventure that really happened.(less)
Christopher Moore seems like morphine to the heroin of my current Tom Holt addiction. Their writing style is similar and obviously they enjoy similar...moreChristopher Moore seems like morphine to the heroin of my current Tom Holt addiction. Their writing style is similar and obviously they enjoy similar themes (fucking about with Christian mythology is almost no leap at all from Holt's stock-in-trade of fucking about with whatever ancient mythology he feels like).
Where they differ, perhaps, is in their humour. Moore's is more blatant, more joke based. This isn't a bad thing. I rarely laugh out loud at books; that's not to say I don't find them funny, it just doesn't happen much the way it does with other media (laughter is really something you do for other people, who aren't really involved when one is reading alone). Lamb made me laugh out loud a number of times. Sure, some of the jokes are childish, but shrewd comments about copulating with farm animals should be funny, no matter your age. If they're not, I'm sitting you down for a talk with the RSPCA as I suspect they might cut a bit too close to home.
Plot-wise, it's a good story and throws out some great ideas. It felt a tad rushed towards the end though. [Things may be a bit spoiler-y from here on, depending on how much you care about knowing anything outside of the blurb] I felt that Biff and Josh's time with the third wise man, Melchior, was hideously short, compared to the time spent with the other two. Particularly because he seemed to teach Joshua his most important lessons.
The events that happen between their return to Israel and the end of the book are also rather heavily compressed. This makes some sense as they're heavily covered by others and Moore's intention was to focus on the "missing" years, but I can't help but feel that there's some wasted potential there.
The end of the book itself was somewhat disappointing. I hoped for more fleshing out of Biff's interactions with Raziel and the modern world, but that wasn't the point of the book.
All together, a good book that I thoroughly enjoyed. My criticisms are minor and don't detract from what's good about the book.(less)