Thursday, 23 May 2013

Chris Kuzneski - The Secret Crown

I have to say, The Secret Crown is one of the best book I’ve read in a while. The two lead characters are fantastic and the way interact often verges on real conversations – albeit the closest I’ve seen to real dialogue. There are several instances where they go off on tangents that don’t necessarily drive the story but they do develop the characters. Their personalities come across almost straight away which is a difficult thing to do.

The story itself is also pretty solid, although it feels quite short. There is a lengthy action sequence in the middle of the book and no last minute showdown when it really feels like there should be. All in all, it feels kind of... easy. The hardships the characters face are more like mediumships except for the one gunfight.

There is one major writing issue that kept bothering me. There are a few telephone conversations throughout the 465 page book. These conversations are always – as they should be – from the perspective of the main characters. This should mean that we shouldn’t be made aware of the facial expressions being used by the person on the other end of the phone. It feels a bit lazy. If you are going to have telephone conversations in a book, one of the sacrifices you should make is removing this kind of description, especially if you’ve already proved your dialogue is strong enough without it. You can emphasise the feelings of the other character through the dialogue or even the intuition of the main character.

There are a few other minor inconsistencies. During some scenes in an old bunker in the mountains there are several doors that are hard to spot and open. However, we get the impression that these giant stone doors have been opened recently so it doesn’t make sense that our experienced protagonists struggle to locate the door and even more, cannot open them.

Also these doors appear to be made of stone with no handles and there is no description given of how to close them which surely must have happened before our protagonists arrived.

On the positive side, there are also some real gems in the narrative. On page 111 there is a joke about Mother’s Day cards and what greetings are not used in them which not only broke the forth wall but was also quite funny. Towards the end of the book there is a dig at the Twilight saga in context which, as you can probably tell from previous reviews, is always welcome.

However, the best bit is the author’s note at the end. Chris shamelessly asks readers to buy 10 plus copies of his book to discuss in reading groups. It is a self-deprecating joke and comes across really well.

To sum up, it’s a solid book, very nearly well written with likable characters and a likeable author. So much so that I ordered his back catalogue when I finished reading simply to learn more about his characters – and he won me over with his author’s note.

The Secret Crown by Chris Kuzneski was published by The Penguin Group in 2010. RRP £6.99 (Paperback)

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