Thursday, 1 April 2010

The Alchemist’s Pursuit by Dave Duncan

I’d seen this book around a few times and thought it looked interesting but never wanted to risk spending money on it. So, when it popped up in the latest Audible $4.95 sale, I decided the price was worth the risk and bought it. Well, let’s just say I’m glad I waited until it was on sale. It really just wasn’t my thing.

Alfeo Zeno, a poor nobleman, is Master Nostradamus’ apprentice. For a price, Nostradamus solves mysteries and helps prove innocence of guilt but because he has slowly become infirm, Alfeo must do most of Nostradamus’ running around for him while the master himself does the thinking. Venice’s “courtesans” are being killed off by a serial killer and Nostradamus is hired to find that killer before anyone else dies. Alfeo, whose lover is a courtesan, is desperate to protect the girls, especially his own, from further harm and pitches himself into the hunt with fervour. The trail brings them back to an old murder in a noble house; one the lords of Venice don’t want dug up. The more they find out, the more dangerous the whole situation becomes for everyone.

The idea for the book sounds pretty good, but it doesn’t live up to the hype in my opinion. The plot was fine, but I didn’t care for the execution of it. Alfeo lacks personality and his forays into the world of romance are cheesy at best. Some of his romanticisms were so bad I actually groaned out loud. It was like reading the thoughts of a love-struck teenager who’d read too many bad romance novels. Nostradamus had a little more spark, but he didn’t feature in it as much as I would have liked. The other characters were OK, but seemed either stereotypical or wooden. Of course, this brings me to mention that it was an audio book and the reader isn’t going to become one of my favourites. His voice is pleasant enough, but he lacked any notion of the Italian language and truly slaughtered a lot of the words, he seemed to be stuck in intense mode, even when the dialogue was light-hearted and didn’t adapt to the characters very well. This all sounds a lot more scathing than it’s meant to be. After all, I did actually finish the book, which is more than I can say for several I’ve tried recently, and it’s not as if I didn’t enjoy it at all because it was OK. It may also be right up someone else’s ally, and it may be that I just didn’t catch the best of the series, so if you think it may be your kind of thing, then by all means give them a try. I think I’ll be passing though.

This one gets a 2 out of 5 from me. Disappointing especially as it had the potential to be quite a good read.

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