Tracy's Reviews > The Falcon at the Portal

The Falcon at the Portal by Elizabeth Peters
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's review
Mar 06, 09

Read in March, 2009

The reason I enjoyed this book so much was entirely because of the characters. Although these people could never possibly exist in reality, it is inspiring to read about such passionate, tireless humans who are superior in every way. Peters has created demi-gods, with flawless human forms, absolutely in control of their thoughts, words, actions, even facial expressions, loved by everyone, the epitome of honorable behavior, and nearly omniscient. It honestly makes me want to be perfect too, despite the sleep I will inevitably lose in this pursuit. (The characters only sleep 2-3 hours a night.)

I am a complete sucker for unrequited love, and the intertwining threads of love in this book interested me above all other plot lines. Muted displays of affection, access to the characters’ inner monologue and torment, and forever wondering if the inner turmoil and secrecy will be spoken out loud, I just can’t help myself. In the end I was disappointed, though, as it proved to be a ploy to sell the author’s next book. The sad part is I’ll probably read the entire series.

As far as the major plotlines that were supposed to keep me interested…big disappointment. Our heroine never did figure out the two big mysteries. Her clever husband and deducing son had to spell it out for her. I also was disappointed at the author’s lack of ingenuity. There was a villain unsuspected by the characters yet glaring in the face of the reader. The chapter headings initially betrayed motive, and the story increasingly made room for one supreme villain. Instead the evil was outsourced to the character’s number one suspect, and our master of evil only ended up responsible for crimes minor by comparison.

Odd observations: Maybe it’s just me, but this book seemed fraught with innuendo. It was so innocently inserted that I’m not sure I noticed half of it, and only once am I actually sure it implied sex. The characters also espoused beliefs outrageous for that time period. It’s possible to conceive that small groups of people may have shared one or two of those beliefs, but the additive effect further removed these characters from the realm of reality. Remember the story takes place in 1911. Here are just a few of the beliefs shared by Amelia Peabody’s household: the abhorrence of firearms and by extension hunting for sport, recognition of servants and those of lesser class, race, and sex as equals or even members of the family, championing women’s rights and supporting and enabling the women of the family to act independently of male control and encouraging female educational goals nigh unheard of at that time, the need to leave some archeological sites unmarred for excavation by those of the future with superior techniques and technology, you get the idea…

Lastly, the heroine is married to a bully of a husband. He orders the family around, he orders his peers around, he’s large in stature and as broad as a bull, and can roar like a lion. He tramples on the feet of his colleagues and gets all bent out of shape when they refuse to acquiesce to his demands. Yet our female champions this behavior; she joys when other men cower in fear because of her husband. Amelia delights when her boorish mate triumphs and you can almost feel her condescension towards those who refused to submit to his outrageous hulk of a personality. Yet, she alone refuses to submit to his rule. He controls everyone else except those within his own home. Their is a contentious relationship, and everyone around them just drifts off once it seems a fight is likely.

Although each individual is presented as perfect, single flaws or indiscretions are why I love them, and because they are so perfect, we’re able to equate their singular mistakes with their pain. All in all, the complex nature of the characters and their unique lifestyles are why I liked this book and why I’ll read more.

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