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I have never read Conn Iggulden before, despite having toyed with the idea of starting his Emperor series on more than one occasion. This is one of many short stories I have read recently, and although the first chapter or so were hard going, I was impressed by how drawn in I was by the end of the 80 pages of story.
To start with, we are introduced to a cold and miserable Davey as he prepares to commit suicide at Brighton beach. Told in the first person and perhaps deliberately not making a great deal of sense, and probably why I fgound it hard to get into to begin with, Iggulden gives us a couple of early snippets as to why davey is there, before his brother shows up to stop.
We're told nothing at this point, and I must admit that intrigue completely got the better of me, and I realised that the desire to know everything was what had niggled me. The mysterious nature of the first few pages had really bugged me, as if a secret was being kept from me when I had the right to know the truth.
My niggles continued for a while longer though, as Iggulden slowly but surely builds the plot as he goes along, giving us a blow by blow account of what is happening in the present, but informing us of what has already transpired through Davey's thoughts. It's very cleverly done, and as events hurtle towards an inevitable conclusion, we see the combined effects of a maniacal brother, a cheating wife, and a dangerous enemy on someone who should, essentially, be normal and sane.
I felt I had a clear grasp on Davey as a character by the end of the book, and although his brother features in much less of the book, I had a surprisingly clear picture of him as well. The other characters are developed oin perhaps the best way possible, given the short number of pages at hand: through actions and other people around them. The others are really characterised and developed as a group, and this is where Iggulden shows that HE controls the pace and the story, that there is a conclusion that has been there all along, and is somewhat predictable when you look back on it all, but isn't quite so obvious on reading it the first time.
It's a well worked story, and one that I found impossible to put down after the first chapter or so. Perhaps I wasn't used to the style of writing I was faced with to begin with, but once I got in the flow, I finished it in one go. As part of the Quick Reads series, which features well known authors penning a tale in a limited number of pages, Iggulden has managed to fit in a tale that seems a lot longer than it actually is, and you are left feeling fulfilled at having read a complete tale, and you the same reaction as if it had been a full length novel. Perhaps with the deeper characterisation side of things missing, but a complete tale nonetheless.
Blackwater is well presented, with a curious front cover that depicts a lonely figure walking away in the distance, on a beach with inclement weather threatening above. I suppose it has meaning, and within the context of the story, you could no doubt assume Davey's loneliness and walking away from things, but read on.......you never know if it infers something different altogether.
Blackwater is available from amazon.co.uk for £2.99, as part of the Quick Reads series. Other books in the series are available for £1.99, so I was surprised at the difference, but it is a good read, so don't be put off. Recommended.
On a recent visit to my local library I was stood in the queue with a few books when I spotted a stand of short stories and a group of books called quick reads. The reason they caught my eye was due to the fact one of them was by one of my favourite authors, Conn Iggulden. I've read ad enjoyed the Emperor series by Iggulden and I'm working my way through the Conqueror series and having loved both its fair to say that he is now one of my favourite authors. So when I spotted one of these quick read books by him I knew it would be worth reading.
The idea of the quick reads series was put together to support World Book Day on the 4th March and started in 2005. Each year they release 10 short books by bestselling authors and celebrities to give regular and irregular readers the chance to try something new. All of the books are reasonably fast paced and hold your attention, which is exactly what this one by Conn Iggulden, my introduction to the Quick Reads program, did incredibly well.
At only 80 pages long it' hard to imagine that you could write a gripping story that would feel like it was 3 or 4 times that number of pages but that is exactly what Iggulden achieves. We are introduced to the lead character Davey as he is about to commit suicide on Brighton shore. Over the next 80 pages we learn of his relationship with his older brother, a cheating wife and even one of his wives latest conquests. For the majority of his life Davey has lived in his older Brothers shadow, a man who would stop at nothing to protect himself and his family. But for Davey it's always been hard to accept and when Dennis Tanter, his wives latest it on the side comes into Davey's life can he rely on his brothers help and support to deal with his latest problem.
It's hard to believe that Iggulden has managed to take the pace that makes his other books so enjoyable and translated it perfectly into this 80 page story. It is for me the sign of a talented writer and he certainly shows that talent with this story. There is no padding or unnecessary bits to the story as we learn about the pivotal moments that define Davey's relationship with his older brother and his gradual acceptance of his wives inability to stay faithful. The characterisation is fast paced and the reader learns a lot about Davey and those around him in a relatively short space of time.
Rather than feeling rushed though it is done in such a way that holds your attention throughout and leaves you wanting to know more about the lead characters. At just 80 pages long it makes it the perfect length to hold your interest and make you want to keep reading to the end. I actually sat and read it the same afternoon as I picked it up from the library and thoroughly enjoyed the story. It's fair to say that the detail and scope of the story could have easily filled hundreds of pages but Iggulden managed to keep it well within the Quick Reads requirements. This certainly is a book that is short, sharp and incredibly fast paced, but not to the point where it feels rushed or hurried.
It has the feel of a very well written and thought out story and fits in well with what you would come to expect from a writer who has as much talent as Iggulden has displayed in his previous series of books. As an introduction to an author and their capabilities these Quick Reads are perfect and while the subject is far removed from his usual topics it is a prime example of how well he can write and how enjoyable his work can be. The only down side is perhaps the cost with this 80 page story setting you back £2.99 from the likes of amazon but I think, given how well written and enjoyable it is, that would be money well spent.