**Thank you to Viking Press, a part of the Penguin Group, for sending me a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**
I requested this book based on its premise: “An epic novel of magic and mysticism, Celts and faeries, mad kings and Druids, stalwart warriors and the goddess struggling to reign over magic’s last outpost on the Earth.”
How can I say no to that? It’s practically my literary bread and butter.
And the story starts out very well, opening in 2016 before flashing back to the 1300’s, where we begin the story that was advertised by the blurb. The attention to detail is astonishing; Mr. Tompkins clearly knows his stuff and has no problem in making sure you know it — oftentimes to the novel’s detriment. While I, myself, love getting as much background information as possible about things which interest me, it doesn’t do any favours to the pacing and cadence of the story. Everything frequently grinds to a halt so that Mr. Tompkins can unload vast quantities of information upon you…before then making a major time-skip and moving on with the story.
This is what I found the most frustrating: the time-skips. They happened frequently within this novel, and I was often flipping back to previous chapters in order to figure out just how much time had passed narratively. Usually I don’t mind time-skips — I just don’t particularly like them occurring every other chapter. It only exacerbates the issue of an inconsistent narrative cadence and makes it more difficult for me to immerse myself in the story.
While the characters are interesting, there are too many of them; they’re crammed into the story and spill over in a confusing jumble of names and loyalties to the point that I was losing track of more than half the names. Either the book needed to be longer — which I don’t think is necessary — or many of these people could have been cut or condensed.
I have a suspicion that this is a set-up for a series, which makes me even more confused as to why Mr. Tompkins did not, perhaps, pull back on many of the characters in order to have a smaller core cast that he develops more thoroughly. The story could have had more breathing to explain its points with more depth; the characters could have been introduced more readily; and the time-skips could have been less frequent.
Ultimately, while I think that Mr. Tompkins is very bright and has a great story/characters on his hands, this novel could have used more fleshing out. In the effort to cram so much into it, I feel that the story got away from the author.