My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Arthurian Omen, by G.G. Vandagriff deals with the intense passion that arises when the location of a long lost manuscript is uncovered. The story is starts out being riveting and it makes you want to find out more, and then when you do, it disappoints.
The first thing that will strike you about this novel is the stupidity of the characters. They seem to make more bad decisions in the first three chapters than most of us make in a year. Their stupidity, though, doesn’t stop there. They continue to make poor decisions, and leaps of logic that can only be author inspired.
From beginning to end the characters come across as flat caricatures who exist merely for the convenience of the plot. The “bad guy” in the novel is constantly ascribed greater malevolence than befits his actions, while the lurking secret behind the story, a Colombian drug cartel, disappears into the mist several chapters before the lackluster climax.
The suspense is held by keeping the identity of most of the characters a secret from the reader, while showing us tantalizing hints of which of the hunters on the grand quest might have an alter-ego under one of the pseudonyms we know is used by one of the bad guys. This suspense is held until about two thirds through the book when, for no apparent reason, Vandagriff breaks the suspense and tells us who is who, leaving just one villain unmasked. The unmasking of the final villain at the climax of the book, left me with only one word: meh. I didn’t care about who it was. The reasons behind the nefarious deeds then come out to be some sort of poor family relationship that the character had as a child, and a nanny who brainwashed them. Of course none of this is mentioned until after the unmasking, which means that the reader is not invested in the investigation, and so has no “aha” moment at the unmasking.
I was once told that directors and writers are like the Wizard of Oz, the character, not the book. If they’re very good you’ll never notice the man behind the curtain. Every author’s motto should be “take no notice of the man behind the curtain”. Vandagriff, instead, writes more like she is standing in the middle of a three ring circus, rather than behind the curtain. The author’s hand is visible on the strings of every character, forcing them into decisions that no reasonable person would make, and manipulating them into actions that seem out of place given their past history.
This is not to say that the novel is not enjoyable. I quite enjoyed the quest through the Welsh countryside. I enjoyed her descriptions of the landscape as they moved through it. I did, though, have some concerns about the amount of detail that went into describing the outfits of the main character, not seeing the reason behind telling us exactly what she is wearing down to the last stitch and hue.
Though the novel had some bright points, this is not an author I will be seeking out in the future. She is too visible in the actions of her characters, and does not allow them to behave as they desire. The story, while interesting, can not make up for the lack of depth in her characters.