In all honestly, I can see why some readers would finish Sean Pidgeon's debut novel and be left completely cold. If I had gone into this read with a p...moreIn all honestly, I can see why some readers would finish Sean Pidgeon's debut novel and be left completely cold. If I had gone into this read with a predisposition to pull at its many dangling threads, I could easily have done so and had it fall apart in my hands. The plot itself is ambling and tangential. The editing is poor. The love story is awkward, and at times, a little insincere, and the characters themselves sometimes lack a depth of feeling that can easily disengage and disenchant the reader.
I loved this book. I honestly loved it. And I can't attribute that giddy hedonism I felt in the dark nights that I devoured it to one factor alone. I must account for them all, for their part.
'Finding Camlann', as it turns out, is a perfect storm for my affections. It has every ingredient to which I might discover its qualities and rush headfirst into its pages. And that's just what I did. I picked it up quite by coincidence, not having the slightest inclination as to its content, found myself admiring its cover (I'm a true guilty indulgent of this practice) and reading the blurb on the inside cover...and that was it for me. It had to be mine. A combination of Welsh literary history, Arthurian legend, and an archaeological discovery near the sacred ground of Stone Henge?...well, let's just say the whole thing was a given. And once I'd started reading, the more I realized the fortuity and serendipity I had touched upon in finding it on a random table at my bookstore. It's pages are so rooted in Wales (my homeland) - places, characters, traditions and stories of ancient myth, Welsh language poetry - more so than any other fiction I have read to date. What with that, and my fascination with Arthurian legend that stretches back to childhood, I was starting to wonder if the whole thing hadn't been written with me in mind!
Despite the not-so-positive points I mentioned earlier, there are certain elements to 'Finding Camlann' that truly shine. Pidgeon's real genius is his ability to distort the lines between real history, myth history, and pure fiction. This he does with pure finesse, and I think I can safely say that it is in no small part due to the years of research that he took in constructing his story. Pidgeon leaves no Arthurian re-telling or literary reference point unmentioned in the quest to discover 'the real Arthur', if such a man ever existed. Indeed, this is perhaps the most permeable question of the entire novel.
The driving force of the story itself is an archaeologist named Donald Gladstone, as he endeavors to write a book chronicling (through historical and literary reference) his obsession with establishing the truths and fictions surrounding the legendary figure of King Arthur. Unlike most of his predecessors (and fellow academics) however, Gladstone's aim is not so much to feed into the legend and mystique that surrounds the character, but to strip him down to his bare essentials, hopefully exposing historical facts about his origins and life. Despite his efforts, he is having significant difficulty accomplishing his task, given the few historical references available, and the reliability of their sources.
Enter Julia Llewellyn, a gifted Brythonic linguist working at the head quarters of the Oxford English Dictionary. After a chance meeting that coincides with the archaeological discovery of a major burial site near Stonehedge, along with the discovery of a long-lost manuscript at the Bodleian library, his chances of unraveling the origins of Arthur start to seem a little more plausible. The manuscript contains a mysterious (and absolutely beautiful, may I add) poem, apparently chronicling the final battle of a great Welsh legend. While its supposed that the poet himself (who's very identity is in question) is referring to a famous prince and warrior of the Welsh people (Owain Glyn Dwr), it seems to reference Arthur, describing his final hours in battle upon the Welsh hills before his death. What follows is a scholarly detective story, fueled by a fascination with uncovering the truth about Arthur, and the quiet development of Donald and Julia's feeling for each other.
The genius in the story lies here. While Pidgeon's many references to Arthurian source material are all accurate and thoroughly well researched, the key piece of evidence that ties the whole investigation together - the poem called 'The Song of Lailoken', written by poet Sion Cent, and suggestively pointing the reader in the direction of specific historical sources as its evidence - is in fact, a complete figment of the authors imagination. Here, the line is drawn between fact and pure fiction. There is no such poem, in the real world. And yet Pidgeon weaves his story with such mastery, composes his fabrication with such savoir-faire, that the reader is left in total belief of its authenticity. For me, being a Welsh speaker myself, the pure beauty and literary artistry of the poems composition left me spell-bound. It was truly the key that made me buy into the entire story, in the end. The characters fascination with it was not at all hard to believe, and it's what brought the story to life. For me at least.
Wonderful and heart-aching, etched with a timeless and beautiful kind of tragedy that made it feel indicatively Welsh. It made me pine for home.
All in all, this book achieved what it set out to do. The world that A.G Howard creates is a multi-faceted, mind-altering universe of...more3 and half stars.
All in all, this book achieved what it set out to do. The world that A.G Howard creates is a multi-faceted, mind-altering universe of dark and twisted gothica, concocted from the warped yet revered imaginings of Lewis Carroll. It does a truly excellent job of blending the coming of age, first love, angst-filled world of a young adult with a fictional dimension that is sensually stimulating, dreamily mysterious, strangely familiar, and at times, genuinely sinister. Those are two contrasting themes of YA fiction that are often popular to broach, and very rarely successfully married into one concept. I do believe that Howard has accomplished this in 'Splintered'.
I very much liked Alyssa Gardner, the protagonist. She is a 17 year old girl with a lot of edge. She has blue dreadlocks, she paints and collages with bugs, she skates and has her own sense of style. I liked her from the very beginning. Unfortunately for her, she also has a lot of baggage. A lot. At a very young age she experienced a traumatic and damaging accident that threatened to tear her family apart. It culminated in her mother being admitted to a mental asylum, a harsh reality of Alyssa's life that is a constant struggle and hardship. There is also the disturbing visions and hallucinations that Alyssa herself has experienced since puberty. She hears voices. Bugs, plants - they talk to her. It's really pretty creepy. What unravels as we read is a family history thick with intrigue, mystery, and plagued by mental illness. Turns out her great-great-great ancestor was in fact Alice herself - the muse and inspiration behind Carroll's Wonderland. The more Alyssa learns about herself, her mother, and her family history, the more tangled she gets in a wonder-world that's seeming more and more real by the second.
In order for Alyssa to prevent the terrible realities of mental illness from taking over her life (and ruining her family forever), she must venture down the rabbit-hole to restore the (relative) harmony that was thrown off-balance when Alice was there. There's a curse that must be broken, equilibrium to be restored - both in Wonderland and in the real world, and all the while she follows the silent whispers of a dark and mysterious guide that has been her constant companion since childhood. Somehow, he knows exactly what she needs to do to make things right again. Couple that with the pains of unrequited love for her childhood best friend and across-the-board hottie Jeb, and the reader is plunged headfirst into a weird and wonderful adventure, tinged with just the right amount of macabre...but is everything in Wonderland, or in reality, entirely what it seems to be?
I enjoyed the process of reading this book. The way the intricacies of Howard's story revealed themselves was very well done, in my opinion. I also completely bought into the romantic thread to the tale, which is always a pleasant (dare I say) surprise! It's always touch and go with YA for me, on that front. But this romance was developed very effectively and believably. There's also a sorta love triangle thing going on, too. But it's complicated. You'll see.
The only part of this book that I disliked, and unfortunately threw me off so much that it lost two stars in this review, is that the last 100 of plot were...almost unreadable in my opinion. By the culmination of the Wonderland story, there had been so many twists and turns and unexpected "what?!" moments (and I usually love these), that I could barely keep track of what was actually happening. I ended up skimming some of these final explanations, as they seemed to be to be very info-dumpy (or, explanation-dumpy), and that skim-reading may have also contributed to my confusion. But seriously? There is such a thing as over-complicating a plot just to try to make it seem smarter than it actually is. And I'm not just saying that because I'm dumb and didn't get it (well, hopefully not ;)). There is such a thing as too much.
I will definitely be reading the sequels though. Very interested to see what direction she takes the next installment, because this book does a great job as a stand alone. I'll keep an eye out for it in the near future! :)(less)
While I don't really buy into the whole 'Archangel' element to this book, it is a useful resource for anyone interested in using crystals for therapy,...moreWhile I don't really buy into the whole 'Archangel' element to this book, it is a useful resource for anyone interested in using crystals for therapy, healing, Feng Shui etc. It contains useful information, but I view it more as a book for beginning crystal users. Nevertheless, a worthwhile addition to my bookshelf.(less)
A lovely deck, highly charged with faerie energy. Sometimes decks that are specifically focused on fae energy can sometimes seem hokey or un-genuine,...moreA lovely deck, highly charged with faerie energy. Sometimes decks that are specifically focused on fae energy can sometimes seem hokey or un-genuine, but I have really enjoy the readings that I have done with this deck, for myself and others. Beautiful imagery and messages.(less)
I enjoyed this series. I am someone who has a profound and deep connection to the moon, it's symbolism and energy, so this book box was perfect. I enj...moreI enjoyed this series. I am someone who has a profound and deep connection to the moon, it's symbolism and energy, so this book box was perfect. I enjoyed all four books, and thought each full of interesting 'tid-bits' of information, fables, fairytales, legends, religious beliefs, history, poetry and magick connected with the moon. A charming edition to my New Age/Witchy bookcase :)(less)
There was something about this novel - something that I can't quite pinpoint, even as I write this review, that made me finish it in one sitting. Some...moreThere was something about this novel - something that I can't quite pinpoint, even as I write this review, that made me finish it in one sitting. Some indefinable quality about this high fantasy story drew me instantaneously into its world, and kept me there until the end. "Then, why give it only three stars instead of four or five?" I hear you ask. I don't know. I can't tell you. But I did. And that was almost my biggest problem with this book.
It's a fairly interesting (if not massively original) premise. In a world where the 'Skilled' are becoming more and more rare, they are a commodity that makes them both a powerful yet hunted people. Kate is one of these rarities. On the island of Albion, (not sure how I felt about this detail - historical/mythical references aside, does anyone play Fable on Xbox? Anyone??) where towns through the ages have been harvested for by the wardens, attempting to locate the remaining 'Skilled' and enslave them, Kate must escape the capture of Silas Dane - the deadliest and most feared warden of them all. But Silas Dane has his own ghosts to escape, and his own debt to settle. And how do both of their stories intertwine with the magical book of 'Wintercraft', that teaches the reader to master the intricacies of 'the Veil'(the land of the dead) and it's inhabitants?
I disliked how quickly we discovered Kate's skills (as did Kate, herself). The beginning felt very 'layed-out'. I soon got over it though, and the rest of the story was quite intriguing. My favorite character by far was Silas, even though, upon reflection, I can't give a good reason why. Sort of like the whole book really. I'm not quite sure why I feel the way I do about it. I just do. But I thought Silas was the strongest, most believable, most flawed yet fascinating character in the story, even though he was...well, kind of evil. I am excited to see his story develop in the sequels. I also hope that a romance will develop between Kate and Silas (not Edgar, please not Edgar), because I think that would be such an interesting love story to explore. I was only a little disappointed that there was no real hint of this as a possibility in 'Shadowcry'. Oh, and talking of the title - it sucks. OK, so the title itself doesn't suck, and it's not TOTALLY disparate from the story itself, but I think that the British title 'Wintercraft' is far more fitting. I do love the cover though. Very dark fantasy, minus the cheese-factor that irritates me about a lot of fantasy cover art.
A well written and conceptually interesting novel. Although I did read this entire book with the unspoken assumption that this was Burtenshaw's debut novel. Not that it was badly written - it wasn't - but I somehow instinctively knew it. I look forward to the development the next installment brings, both in plot, characters, and writing style. (less)