Alex's Reviews > Declare

Declare by Tim Powers
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's review
Feb 26, 11

Read in November, 2010

A strange fantasy novel about shifting alliances among spies in a world where supernatural entities exist. It's interesting to think about because it's generally hard to figure out what the hero wants. There's a love story. And he's a dedicated spy trying to infiltrate ... something ... but the story unfolds in back-and-forth time -- 1948, then 1963, then 1941, then 1945, then 1963 again. And it changes main characters halfway through. I don't know what the stakes are.The hero is a bit of cipher, as spies sometimes are. What am I rooting for?

In other words it bends all sorts of narrative rules and even arguably breaks some.

Somehow it gets away with it. I wasn't sure why I kept reading it, but I did. Maybe because I wanted to find out what the supernatural powers are, and what exactly happened on Mount Ararat in 1948.

I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. That must be it.

There's a fascinating epilog, too. The book creates a whole mythology around the British spy turncoat Kim Philby. It was interesting to read how Powers came up with the story. He was reading biographies of Philby, and kept running across events that suggested a much more interesting story hidden just behind what was written. Why did Philby weep for two days when his pet fox died -- when he had only wept so much for the death of his father? Why did a Saudi sheik give Philby, as a child, a twenty carat diamond? And what was the real meaning between Solomon's offer to split the baby in two?

Powers set himself a rule, as he constructed the story of DECLARE, to abide by all the historical facts, and only conjure up what was behind them.

Fascinating. Worth a read.
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