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Neil Gaiman Presents, and George R.R. Martin praises it right on the cover. Two powerhouse names like that can't be wrong when they stand in agreement, and it's that very reason I selected this book. These are names I trust.
This is an older novel and reads like one, but that's certainly no turn-off. What's a bit jarring is the format and presentation. A Pavane is a style of music, and the format was presented in here in literary form as 6 movements and a coda. The basic idea is that this is an alternate history where Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated, and in the mid-20th century, the Roman Catholic Church is still in supreme dominance as a result of having killed the Reformation. It's a steampunk styled world ruled by superstition and fear, but far more authentic feeling than most steampunk. It feels less like fantasy and more like a legitimate alternate reality. Sounds epic, right? Yes and no. You don't get an epic here. What you get is a personal account. Each of the stories contained here link one to the next through the eyes of the characters. Instead of a big worldview epoch, you get a human quality to the world as these people see it - what it's like to live in this world from within a few different walks of life, with the same emotions, strengths, and frailties that people are prone to have in our world as well. It's a master class in characterization. As a result, it burns slow, but it burns evenly, as surely as a higher quality candle. It doesn't illuminate the entire world, but it does illuminate the corners of it we visit through these characters, and it casts larger shadows of suggestion into that world. It definitely leaves you wanting more. More's the pity that there is no more save for what we take from the suggestive nature of asking the two most powerful words in the English language: "What if...?"
23 of 23 people found this review helpful
I knew in the first 10 minutes of this recording that I would not be able to do anything requiring multi-tasking while listening. The story is so deep and so full of the facts of this alternate universe, that it needs full attention.
It is written as though the author didn't just consider the surface change of this non-reformation world, but the skeleton and tissue of it's history - each of the separate stories centers on how the characters would live and react in a world dominated and restricted by the one and only church. The reader does a superb job of conveying the feel of this world and its characters. Overall it is a dark world, but ends on a message of hope and the alternative world feels solid and real.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful
I read this book many years ago and it was fantastic to go back to it and remind myself of the end. The traction engine parts are so correct I could smell the steam and hot metal. The narator is excellent. I would highly recommend this book.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
this is evocative writing and beautifully performed. great intro by Neil Gaiman. i highly recommend it.