Review: The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Reviewed by Kate Smith
On picking up the book and reading the blurb on the back, I was immediately interested. The combination of what appeared to be a period political thriller combined with supernatural elements appeared very promising, and I began reading with relatively high expectations. Unfortunately, for me, this hope was not met.
The plot begins well enough and holds the attention of the reader. However, relatively quickly the story turned into a soap opera. As I was looking for the political and social intrigue promised by the blurb the way the plot developed was a disappointment to me. I did not find the style of writing particularly engaging and the plot tended to drag in parts. Neither did I find the characters particularly likable. Many came across to me as petty and childish in a lot of their actions, more so than could be expected of people in those situations at those times. The character that I did connect with seemed to be written more as a character with which the reader was not supposed to primarily identify. This certainly did not make the story more enjoyable. The way the novel ended did not leave me keen to get the next. I found myself able to put the novel down at any time without a burning desire to get back to the story.
However, having said the above I believe my issues with the story primarily come down to being a teacher of history and in expecting different things of the story than were given in the plot. The cross-over of Venice of hundreds of years ago with attitudes held by some characters more appropriate in the 20th century did not sit easily with me. For a reader not familiar with some apparent anachronisms the text would be far more enjoyable. Unfortunately, knowing too much history is an issue that often spoils what may otherwise be a good read or a good movie! I also expected different things from the story from the blurb and this steered me towards reading a book I was never really likely to enjoy. I can, however, see how The Fallen Blade could easily be enjoyed by other readers. Sadly I was not one of those who may find something in the text worthy of the time taken to read it.