|The Phoenix Year by David L Blond|
|Reviewer: Susmita Chatto|
|Summary: A group of billionaires conspire to take control of the global economy - and they'll stop at nothing to do it.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 332||Date: March 2014|
|Publisher: Wattle Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
I was really looking forward to reading this, marketed as a thriller that spans the globe and centres on rich, powerful individuals trying to change the world. The cover is reminiscent of the opening titles of House of Cards and Damages and the fact that each chapter bears a title was appealing to me as well.
So I began with great enthusiasm, which diminished with the first few chapters. Although I took to Kim, a major character, straight away, I found the others came across as quite shallow, largely due to being under-written.
The opening chapter was full of drama but there was something missing and I think that something was any impetus to really care for the characters. I appreciate there’s a fine balance with thrillers in terms of action versus character; no one is reading it for a slow meandering read so it can be hard to work in character detail. However, this is a complex novel and would have benefited from more backstory early on. Characters can’t develop unless they are well established initially and these are not.
It improved as it went along but the early part of the book was hard work. The term 'page turner' is often mocked, but I think it has value in that it describes really great flow and the sort of book that readers find it hard to put down.
This book doesn't flow very well till about half way through. The dialogue is clunky and there are quite a few unnecessary adverbs (e.g. slamming the phone down ‘angrily’. When does anyone slam a phone down in good humour?). The smoothness of a page-turning thriller is definitely missing here.
As I write this, I feel I am judging it quite harshly in pointing out things like adverbs - but that is because it had the potential to be really good and I was disappointed that it didn't deliver. Blond's descriptions are highly engaging; he is particularly good at bringing to life the seedier locations in this novel and I would have liked to see more of those skills put to use for describing the nicer places. Blond also has a skill for smaller observations, often made by passing characters, and making them really contribute to the feel of the book.
I also thought that all the facts about economics were presented so well, even someone who has no interest in that subject would be comfortable reading these sections. So if by chance you are a person who loves thrillers but has concerns over that, have no fear. Some of it made for quite the history lesson, taking us back through times when many economists seemed to think that the good times would never end. I enjoyed seeing that part of recent history through the eyes of the different characters living in vastly different situations.
There are many reasons why a novel like this is a major project; the global span, the network of characters and the fact that personal relationships are covered to a greater extent than one might expect in such a book. I felt that more editing was needed and more of this would have picked up on certain characters being under developed – particularly Natalya.
Overall, I felt the book had a lot of unfulfilled potential but I think it would be well suited to those who enjoy a sweeping international saga as well as a thriller.
If thrillers appeal to you then you might enjoy The Spring of Kasper Meier by Ben Fergusson.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Phoenix Year by David L Blond at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Phoenix Year by David L Blond at Amazon.com.
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