The Excalibur Codex by James Douglas

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The Excalibur Codex by James Douglas

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: Fast paced adventure in the style of the Da Vinci Code with an Arthurian twist, and an excellent insight to the effects of terrorism and hatred.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: August 2013
Publisher: Corgi
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0552167925

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Jamie Saintclair is an expert in tracing works of arts. But he has just as much of a knack for finding trouble as he does for recovering art work. He has just been made an offer no treasure hunter could refuse. A chance to find the legendary sword of Arthur, but he won't be dealing with knights or chivalry in this adventure, instead he will come up against the very worst of human nature. This book will take him on a quest beginning in one of humanity's darkest chapters, the rise of Nazi Germany. The evil perpetuated in this era will be mirrored by modern men who are prepared to plunge the world into darkness once again, this time in the name of British purity. Although the sword is associated with supernatural powers, there will be nothing supernatural in the evil Jamie faces, only the unbridled hatred and lust for power that comes so naturally to some men, and because of this is ever so much more terrifying than magic or monsters. What is even more disturbing is the thought that under the right circumstances, many of us could become monsters as well.

There are some things about this book I really loved. I was impressed by Douglas's use of little known historical facts. I have never come across a fictional account of some of the atrocities committed after the second world war; he has hinted at a dark secret many of would probably rather not know. He has obviously done his research before writing this book. I liked the way Douglas depicted the average Brit, and I think he captured the essence of what is best in Britain admirably, even as he openly admits Britain's darker side as well. A few extremists will always try to inflame the situation, but most British people want no part of such things. Most of all I loved the fact that the greatest thing to fear in terrorism is not the bombs or the bullets, but hatred. If nothing else this exploration of the range of human reactions to terrorism makes this book worth considering, and he writes with a deep understanding of this issue.

This is a fast paced book, as Jamie traces one clue after another leading him ever closer to the sword. There is definitely a good story in this, and I did enjoy reading it. Many of the twists are very good, there are certainly aspects of this book that will make you think about present day events as well. But, most of the suspense was toned down by predictability, and unfortunately the author seemed to feel the need to drop too many clues, so that nothing in the book took me by surprise. I really would have preferred a bit more subtlety. If you're happy with just a good adventure with a few gun fights, some dips into myth, history and some excellent insight into the capacity of many for evil, this book might be very satisfying.

If however you like to puzzle out the clues as you go along, you may be disappointed. I also had some difficulty with the amount of repetition in the book. One of the main characters in the book is introduced as an ex SBS man. The odd reminder of this fact would have been fine, but the author felt the need to remind us over and over again that Gault was a former SBS man. There were a few other incidents of repetition that became grating after a while. I also felt that the reader's credulity was overstretched by the number of beautiful warrior-like women waiting in the wings to rescue Jamie and that all of the female characters were without depth. Finally, I can't say that I found the ending at all satisfying, but it may be more enjoyable for those who were waiting for something bordering on myth and magic.

Despite these flaws, I do still think the book is worth reading. In fact if the book had not had so much potential otherwise, these flaws mightn't have annoyed me so much. I do think the author has real talent, he just needs a bit of polish and editing, and perhaps work a bit more on the development of female characters. If he could avoid some of the most obvious clues and the excessive repetition, this really could be an exceptional book.

If this book appeals you could have a look at:

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

Fatherland by Robert Harris

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Buy The Excalibur Codex by James Douglas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Excalibur Codex by James Douglas at


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