Sep 23, 11
Read from September 20 to 23, 2011
Quick Take: Sadly, this book didn't resonate with me as it did with hundreds of other readers. The characters are key in this tale, and I couldn't get a lock on them. However, I did enjoy the parallelisms between this story and Dante's Inferno; the writing did reflect a wealth of knowledge on behalf of the author, so there is a fair bit of meat to dissect in this piece.
I honestly don't know where to begin. Writing an ambivalent review always sucks--who wants to NOT love what they read for pleasure?--but it's particularly poop-sticks when you're literally one out of a hundred in your opinion. I would love to gush about this book, but integrity dictates that I just break of a piece of my honest opinion. And the punchline to that opinion is: I didn't love this book. I didn't hate it, but I was a ways away from loving it.
This book is a many-faceted thing. It delved into a lot of emotion, ranging from self-loathing and pity to love, forgiveness, and friendship. And there's no doubt about it: the author knows his damn literature. ^_^ I often enjoy following the ways in which authors weave existing and renowned figures, events, and styles into their contemporary fiction. The very title of this book, Gabriel's Inferno, is a nod to a part of 14th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. Reynard's story features main characters that study Alighieri's work--and if you're at all familiar with the classic piece of literature, you'll notice that the characters and plot loosely mirror those of the original Inferno. As a result, the reader is given the opportunity to explore the age-old themes, but in a modern setting. Rock on.
Now, I think that some of the areas that didn't resonate with me had a lot to do with the characters--not as representations or "updates" of classical figures but on their own as contemporary people. The two mains, Gabriel and Julia, were somewhat difficult to grasp. Sure, the guy was often angry and the gal was often very meek, but there was more to them then that; I just couldn't figure out what it was. At times, the characters' behaviors were bipolar almost from one line to the next, and what truths or convictions were established in one section seemed to be overturned or forgotten in the next. There were certain visuals that resonated--the description of Gabriel in full-on drunkenness was particularly powerful--but as a collective, the individual actions and machinations of the main characters just didn't form something cohesive and…well, completely convincing, in my mind.
Though this book is thoroughly character-driven, my thoughts on the progression of the plot was that it did not flow seamlessly; there were what felt like "episodes" but even they didn't feel like they formed something I could follow and comprehend. I actually found out after the fact that this book was originally written as a serial. (Fun fact: Gabriel's Inferno actually began as a fanfiction of a certain beloved YA vampire series.) I can't help but wonder whether I might have enjoyed the tale more if I'd read it as the sequence of vignettes in which it was first structured. Or for that matter, whether the flow would've felt different had the book been originally written/conceived as a single work. Just a musing.
Enough of my rambling for now. ^_^ I think I'm going to have to marinate a bit on this book. Perhaps my brain is flawed and can't tell a giraffe from a peanut. But I wasn't set on fiyah over this book the way many others have been (and this truly baffles me). But I would absolutely, positively, without a doubt encourage others (including those with whom I typically share many book prefs) to check this one out; it's got waaaay to much excitement and support surrounding it not to. It's certainly epic in its examination of love and redemption. I myself am hoping to check out Reynard's future writings.