Honestly, by the time I got around to trying to write a review of this (which would be just now), I had to stop for a minute. I couldn’t remember a thing. It all came back after a second; there was the instant I thought “I only gave this three stars?”, followed closely by the one in which I thought “Oh, right. Yes. Three.”
It had its moments. I liked the main character, Valjean Cameron. I liked her friend Adrian (despite the fact that I kept confusing her with her brother Anthony; “Adrian” is usually the masculine spelling) and her aunt Greta, and the sharp young girl she encounters in pursuing answers. I wasn’t as enamored with Anthony Bale, perhaps because my entire Catholic background rose up in protest of his choice of lifestyle and choice of cover story.
That was actually a major drawback to the book for me. I found it repulsive that a man who might at any time be called upon to perform acts upon which any church would frown, and who apparently has (or has had) a string of bed-warmers, who openly states his agnosticism (if not atheism) – that such a man would think it was just fine to put on the robe of even a lay brother and pretend to be a man trying to be … good. I would think the hypocrisy would be hard for an intelligent man to live with, but apparently in this case it is not. It was, however, hard to read about, and I was completely unwilling to accept Bale as Val’s new love interest.
There are all kinds of comparisons to Dan Brown’s exercises in earnest silliness, to the point that I’m a little shocked I would request this. And, while it’s better written to a degree that is so large as to be almost immeasurable, there is an awful lot of common ground between That Book Which Shall Remain Nameless and this one. A secret Catholic society looking to change the world is just as silly when I like the main character and don’t cringe at most of the writing as when I want to shoot the main character in the face and most of the writing makes me whimper softly.
(It may be the fault of the ARC, but there were a handful of times when the writing did make me whimper, just a little – “Turning to face Bale, her sweater tugged across her breast”, for example. Maybe these things will be fixed.)
Also … why, exactly, does a member of a secret society (let me repeat: SECRET) get a tattoo of said society’s symbol above his collarbone? Not inside his elbow, or under one breast, or on the back of his knee or someplace else most people would never see it – nope: in a place where it would often show above his neckline.
So – it’s better than That Other Book – but that’s not a difficult achievement, after all. It falls somewhere in between it and The Eight – on the lower end of the scale, unfortunately. Disappointing.
The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.