Megan's Reviews > Sovay

Sovay by Celia Rees
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Sep 26, 08

bookshelves: fiction-historical, fiction-romance, fiction-ya
Recommended for: Fans of 'The Knight of Maison-Rouge' by Alexandre Dumas; 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' by Baroness Orczy
Read in September, 2008, read count: 1

Sovay had the potential to be a great novel, but turned out to be an overly ambitious project that sadly misses it's mark. This book is full of wonderful plot devices, too full in fact; therein lies the problem. The story contains elements of Ann Radcliff's gothic suspense, Frances Burney's mannerly romance, and Baroness Orczy's mystery-laden intrigue; but the author seems unable to decide which of these themes demand dominance in the story, and the result is a confusing mess. Too many false stops and starts to the action, too many possible romantic leads that fizzle off into nothing. The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying, and left me wholly disappointed that I spent over two weeks forcing myself to finish it, hoping against hope that the rough spots would even out. They didn't.

I think this story could have been the basis for a respectable trilogy: Sovay's adventures as a highwayman, Sovay's adventures in the gothic abbey, Sovay's adventures in Revolutionary France; but cramming all of these story lines into one novel stifles the chance of allowing any one of them have the chance to develop fully. Further frustrating this reader (and I suspect, others), few of the numerous supporting characters introduced into the various subplots receive anything approaching resolution at the end of the story. The heroine gets a very contrived happy ending in the epilogue, and everyone else apparently disappears into inconsequence, including the family members she spends the better part of the book trying to rescue.

On the other hand, I must give credit for the good aspects of the book that kept me reading despite the meandering storyline--well developed characters, spot-on historical research, and very fine writing style from the author. Ms. Rees clearly knows how to tell a story, but in this case it would seem she couldn't quite decide on what story she wanted to tell. I'm sure if I were directed to another of her novels with a more clearly defined plot I may find her work most enjoyable.
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