“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

In a way, I had.  Between trying to maintain productivity while working from home with a sick child yesterday and staring aghast at the news coming out of Virginia Tech, I just didn’t have either the time or mental energy to pour out anything coherent.

Besides, I think I may be the only person who actually read last month’s GAMBLE book.  Remember that one?  The one that got lost in the GW excitment?  The one I actually read in it’s entirety on my last business trip – ten days late?

Anyway, I can tell you that if you want to catch up with this one, it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, Vantrease does an excellent job evoking the atmosphere of the time and place.  She entwines her characters and historical figures well, and unfolds the history without the book every feeling contrived, and without “background” descriptions.

I had two basic problems with the book.  First, it felt “unfinished”.  Not unfinished in the way that you feel there is a sequel coming (which there may be), but unfinished in a way that feels like she opened several story threads that she just didn’t know what to do with later, so she just cut them off expediently.  Very unsatisfying in that respect.

The second problem is the characters never really build depth.  We never really got the impression of them as complex human beings.  If they experienced any character development during the course of the book, like the main character, Kathryn (contrary to the title, the Illuminator is really not the central voice of the book), and her son Alfred (who exhibits probably the most profound changes), there really does not seem to be a compelling force behind those changes, or at least it is not adequately explained to us.  Alfred comes back from his squirehood a changed man, but we are only given a tiny glimpse of an explanation for those changes, and they seem to fall short.

It is also a book that doesn’t really ever decide what it wants to be.  It is not really steamy enough to be a historical romance, but it’s a bit too romantic to be a serious historical novel.  Illuminator is more of a light-reading historically-based fantasy than anything else.  Good for a few hours of diversion, even engrossing in parts (Julian the anchoress is the one character that really shines), but it falls just short of being memorable.

…and on to next month.  Stay tuned.

April 18th, 2007 at 10:51 am