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  • A disjointed mess

    I love a good fantasy story and so I was excited to get the ARC of The Absolute Book although I was a little apprehensive as at 650 pages it is a beast. I was therefore really disappointed to have it be my first DNF for NetGalley at 36%. The story starts out well, there’s a dead sister and a hitman and a family history in a library. Then I’m afraid it all got very confusing for me! The author seemed to be in a bad habit of describing a lot of things in detail but then skipping over something very important that made you feel like you were constantly playing catch up! One example of this is our main character is making food for everyone one night as they lay out their plans and then all of a sudden she is possessed by a demon again in a car going somewhere with no explanation. There’s also theatrical snow in a server farm in a desert somewhere which I did not understand the relevance of. It was disjointed, confusing and I didn’t understand what was going on most of the time. I didn’t really feel anything for any of the characters and felt like I was just skipping through to finish it rather than enjoying it. If the book had been 300 pages or so I would have ploughed through but only having made it a third of the way at page 200 I realised I wasn’t interested where it was going. Judging by other reviews it seems to be a bit like marmite – you either give it 5 stars or abandon it halfway through and I’m afraid I am in the latter camp with this book. Overall, The Absolute Book is a bit of a mess – confusing and disjointed and not recommended. Thank you to NetGalley & Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for a (very) honest review.

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  • Picturesque

    This book gets lots of points for it's beautiful writing and vivid imagery, but it left me feeling disoriented. It's a series of stories with canyons of time and space between, switching often to the past or to a parallel world. By halfway point I'd lost track of where it started, and why. The writer peoples the book with an astonishing array of characters. Many of them seem to be a pastiche from folk tales of a range of times and places. The story begins with a murder. Brutalized by her sister's end, the teenaged protagonist churns restlessly about, unable to re-centre herself. The mentor who materializes is a fascinating character, but almost indefinable. Sometimes he is Christ, sometimes Merlin, sometimes the Green Man, the god who returns. The plot is driven by condemnation of the contemporary world as selfish, greedy and destructive. There's a strong plea for concerted environmental action; also a call to value and preserve all libraries, whatever their provenance, to carry forward what has been learned. While gripping to read, the book sometimes plunges into incoherence as new characters and scenarios are written in, to the point where to me it seems to contradict itself. As often in works of fantasy there are strong elements of threat, cruelty and violence; and almost no sex, in spite of its beautiful heroine. I was left feeling irritated at its lack of continuity and direction. Read it for its bursts of imagination and its beautiful writing.

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  • Old/new vision

    I love Knox's writing and enjoyed this book too, although I felt it meandered a bit through the middle and could possibly have been tighter and clearer. Even so, it is a fascinating story with a pleasing conclusion.

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