Monday, June 27, 2005,10:14 AM
Book Review - The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville
One of the things I want to do here is post about books I am reading. I just finished Katherine Neville's The Magic Circle. I had read her bestselling book The Eight and was interested in discovering more by her. I came away from this book a bit disappointed, but glad for the interesting read.
Neville writes in the whole mystery/thriller/conspiracy theory genre that has become so popular these days. Her books are very similar to Dan Brown's - with the same intense pace and focus on both sacred and secular mysteries. In fact The Magic Circle has many of the same elements as does The Da Vinci Code (although Neville's book was published first).
The book centers around a young scientist, Ariel, who recently inherited a strange manuscript from her cousin. This event sparks an adventure as others rush to gain possession of those documents. The story tells of her attempts to protect those documents while trying to discover what their significance is. As Ariel gains knowledge of history, she discovers that her strange family history is wrapped up in the significance of the papers. The reader is treated to an intricate story of history, mythology, faith, and power. Tales of Christ, Mary Magdalgne, and Joseph of Arimathea weave together with that of the Ceasars and Hitler. The relentless search for the truth turns Ariel's perception of history and her family upside down.
Although the complex story was fun to read, it ended up as being just a mess. It was complex just to be complex. The end resolution was very rushed and disappointing. All of the significant religious, mythic, and scientific relevations were pointless in the end. The book fell ito the predictable pattern of gnostic fiction - the concept of the existence of secret knowledge became more important that the knowledge itself. In addition as each new level of the family relationship in the book unfolded, the story became more and more unbelievable. I was reminded of the TV show Alias - where everyone has two or three secret identities. It becomes too unbelievable after a time.
I would recommend this book only if you really like the genre and are hungry for an intricate story. Neville's novel The Eight is much better, as are other intellectual thrillers such as those by Dan Brown, Umberto Eco, or Arturo Perez-Reverte.

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