Saturday, May 16, 2009

Veil of Lies: A Medieval Nior

Five stars. I measure a book by five simple criteria. A star is awarded for each question, and the total is my overall rating.

Did I finish reading it? You might think this is a trivial question, but I am ruthless with my time. I won't stick with a book if the writing is sub-par, or if the main character annoys me, or if the story is going nowhere.

Am I interested in reading a sequel, assuming there was one? I chose this question carefully, because it says quite a bit about how interested I was in the story, and how much I liked the characters. I've read quite a few books all the way through and at the end thought, "That's nice. And now, on to other things..."

Was the writing good? I am a stickler for the craft. We've all read novels where we gritted our teeth through all the bad cliches, violations of POV, abuses of passive voice, telling and not showing--you get the idea.

Was the story idea interesting? This measures a lot of things: originality, milieu, the beginning hook, development of the story, etc.

Was the ending satisfying? I think this one goes without explaining.

Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson does not fail to impress. Think of a 50's era detective noir set in England during the reign of Richard II (Late 1300s). Add to that a holy relic which makes anyone in its presence unable to tell a lie, and you have an awesome story. Well steeped in the time period, the story is filled with vivid portrayals of common life in the middle ages Westerson took great pains to ensure historical accuracy. People who like reading stories from this time period won’t be disappointed.

I really liked Crispin Guest, the main character. A former knight who was stripped of his rank after being implicated in a plot against Richard II, he now makes his living as a private detective, or “tracker” as he calls himself. He finds stuff. Or he finds out stuff. Crispin Guest follows the anti-hero archetype rather well, and Westerson pulls it off nicely. Forced to live on the seedy side of town, Guest doesn’t always play by the rules. Law and brutality went hand in hand during this time. I especially like his servant, who is a street urchin that he rescued from being hung, who can pick locks and swipe things and spy for him—and he cleans up the room where he and Guest stay when the mood strikes him.

My rating: five stars.

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