James Treadwell: Advent – Ambitious? (Review)

advent

Advent. 439 pages long and I felt most of them go by.

That’s not to say the book is awful. It isn’t. The side note that the protagonist, Gavin, likes Victorian novels does seem to be an autobiographical comment, as another reviewer has noted before me. However, this does not give the book an excuse to lose tension. Between page 250 and around 340 or so I lost interest. It was an uphill battle as I forced myself to keep reading.

In the middle section of this book not much interesting happens, simply put.

I think one of the major issues is the narrative structure. The main protagonist, Gavin, is well crafted and has a character a reader can delve into and enjoy. However, the imposition of the 1500’s magus character does not work brilliantly.

He is essential to the back story and current plot but he is cold, greedy and has no redeeming features. Yes, some villains are like this but it does not seem realistic. There has been an attempt at romance and knowledge gone dark, twisted, but the change, the contrast, is too stark, too unrealistic. He becomes a caricature.

Of course, this may have a lot to do with the layers within the book. It expects a lot of a reader if we are to understand every sly reference. The book alludes to less known corners of Arthurian legend and Faustian tales.

For this, I both reward and condemn. It assumes a reader has more knowledge than a general fantasy reader necessarily may have. Perhaps, in some ways, it is more literary than genre fiction.

However, the novel does break away from the stereotypes of fantasy and strive to create something new, if influenced by the Gothic.

As wikipedia notes from an interview with James Treadwell, the novel (and its assumable the following series) looks at what would happen to modern society should magic be reintroduced to the world as real. This is a concept I myself wrestle with in my own writing (and novel in progress: While I Slept).

At risk of becoming hypocritical, I just feel Treadwell could have done this better. It seems he’s thrown creatures at a page with little thought for why those particular species were picked and the punch lines in the story were too spaced out.

A good 100-150 pages of the novel could be cut and it would be a much better read as, I must say, despite all this criticism, the first 250 and the last 80 pages were a great read. The writing style and turn of phrase can also be, and often is, fantastic.

To sum up, James Treadwell is a great writer and I’m sure we will see more writing from him in future. Hopefully, those books will build on this first one and his writing will improve.

For this book, I give him a score of 3.5/5

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