As evidenced by my "Currently Reading" list (look right!), I've been bitten by the bookworm again lately, which has been wonderful and/or frustrating, depending on the book. Let me introduce...
The Cranky Book Reviewer
Do you have a favourite author? One that you know won't let you down? You have read everything by this guy, and you get super excited when you see that he's written a new book and that it's available at the library...
Charles de Lint is actually an Ottawa-based writer (in one of the first books I read by him, a character walked down Bank Street, over the Lansdowne bridge, and I suddenly realized it was set in my town) has been one of my tried-and-true guys for over ten years.
He's created an incredible world, Newford, populated with likeable, interesting, memorable characters, which exists across many of his books. For me, opening a new story and reading about Geordie or Jilly, or Maida and Zia again was like running into an old friend. Each book left me satisfied, but also desperately interested to read more of his work. His stand-alone novels are just as good.
The Mystery of Grace, however, has the feel of a publisher's deadline about it. It had all the classic de Lint characteristics - a mix of reality and fantasy, intrigue, love, folklore, music, good against evil... and then it just ends. I almost feel like writing him a letter, and saying, "No seriously. Where's the REAL ending?" It feels slapdash, like he just gave up and decided to stop at the 100,000th word (these books exist in NowWhat, à la Douglas Adams).
I still love the man's work, and will definitely get a hold of his next book as soon as MH Public Library gets it in, but he only has two more chances with my heart.
I've also just finished my third Ken Follett novel, World Without End. It was slightly worse than its prequel, Pillars of the Earth. (oh look - it's being turned into a miniseries, apparently starring Lovejoy. Goody.) Don't get me wrong - I admit that it's MY fault for sitting down with another 900-plus-page book of his (thanks, Meg!!!), especially after I didn't enjoy the first two too much.
I'll give the man props, though, for researching his work thoroughly - the in-depth information on carpentry and mason techniques from the 14th century, the background on the plague, etc. was, I'm sure, very accurate.
However, in an opus as long and detailed as World Without End, with so very many characters, he tended to re-introduce them again each time they pop up...again. As in (paraphrasing, as I have no interest in opening that book again) "Gregory Longfellow, who was the lawyer at the trial for etc.". This calls for another letter: "Perhaps if you made your characters more memorable in the first place, you wouldn't need to describe them over and over again".
Generally, I found the plot lines to be extremely reminiscent of Pillars of the Earth. Hero and Heroine, torn apart, reunited, lather, rinse, repeat. Good People persecuted. Repeat ad nauseum. Evil Church-Type People prosper, wreak revenge over and over on Good People, for no good reason. Etcetera.
I will NOT be reading any more of his books. Unless I'm desperate.