Coucher de soleil's Reviews > Spirit: or, The Princess of Bois Dormant

Spirit by Gwyneth Jones
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Jan 10, 2012

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bookshelves: science-fiction-read
Read in December, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

I must admit to being disappointed with this novel. The setting was extremely original and unusual -this was not a novel that merely aspired to mere 'fluff' status. Rather, the author was aspiring to write true literature, which is something I both respect and admire.

Good points: This was one of the most original novels I've ever read. It truly is utterly unlike anything else out there (IMHO). Also, the notion of reshaping the 'Count of Monte-Cristo' story of betrayal and revenge within a futuristic setting is a highly ambitious (and interesting, IMHO) undertaking.

Not so good points:

The most glaring problem with this novel, and the point which brought it down to three stars for me, was the fact that the motivations of the main character's betrayal were never sufficiently explained.

This is a futuristic rewrite, as I have mentioned, of the 'Count of Monte-Cristo' ('Le comte de Monte-Cristo' in the original French) written by Alexandre Dumas (the father, not the son). In order to be fair to Jones' novel and to its (extremely different) setting, I will say that there is a limit to how much one can compare the two novels, despite the 'bare-bones' similarity in their storylines. However, what I will say in this regard is that one of the great strengths of Dumas' work was the way in which he used actual historical events as well as intricate plotting to create a story which, despite being fiction, was completely believable. This believability occured because the reader understood how a had led to b which had led to c (in particular with regards to the main/central character being betrayed by all those he knew). In Jones' novel OTOH, many events which led to the main character being betrayed and wrongly imprisoned are NEVER explained. This leads to the reader feeling a certain sense of detachment with regards to the events of the novel, IMHO. In other words, as things are never actually explained, they never feel completely *real*. Despite the novel's futuristic setting, this is something that is required for the reader to be able to completely immerse themselves in the story.

As a final note, I will state that this is not a simple novel to read. It isn't an easy read and isn't always pleasant. This doesn't (IMHO) make a novel any less worth reading, of course. There are many worthwhile books out there that aren't easy to read (e.g. Emile Zola, or some of Thomas Hardy's work, for instance). I am just pointing out that this is not the type of novel one reads in one sitting.
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