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I'd never read a Mario Reading book before this, and had no idea what to expect. Would it be a mediocre, walking paced and only slightly engaging mild thriller, or would it truly grab me, shake me around in its grip like King Kong with a biplane and properly thrill me?
The story is based on a search for some of Nostradamus' missing quatrains, a series of four line prophecies written by him in the 16th century. A man in present day Paris (the book was released in 2009, so it's not quite present day any more) posts an advert in a newspaper claiming that he has those missing quatrains for sale. Two men reply to the advert, one is a writer, Sabir, who wishes to write a best selling fortune maker based on their content and the other man, Bale, turns out to be a member of secret organisation called Corpus Maleficus with their own, quite sinister reasons for wanting to acquire the quatrains.
The would-be seller is a Gypsy called Babel, who is killed by Bale for not revealing to him the location of the quatrains. Sabir is dragged into the crime as a police suspect as he was last seen with Babel who, for reasons that I won't reveal, covered Sabir's face in his blood. Just before dying, Babel tells Sabir to seek out his family and utter a few short words which he tells Sabir to say. Sabir does this, and Babel's family hold their own court to determine whether or not Sabir is innocent. They decide that Sabir did not kill Babel and that they should help Sabir to find the prophecies that Babel claimed to be selling and keep them from Bale. Along every step of the way, Sabir and Babel's family are doggedly pursued by Bale. Who finds the quatrains first, and what do they do with them? You'll have to read the book yourself and find out!
Right then, here's what I thought about the book. For its "grippability", if a score of 10 is the equivalent of a conversation with John Lennon, Nelson Mandella and Adolf Hitler and 1 is the literary equivalent of being strapped to a chair in a conference centre while the annual meeting of the British Train Spotting Society is being held, then I would say that this would just about get a 7. Not outstandingly gripping, but it's certainly not boring. There were enough twists and turns to make my journey as interesting as having a window seat, but not enough twists and turns to make me shout "wahoo, lets do that again".
I thought there were the right amount of main characters - not too many so that the plot becomes confusing trying to remember who said what to who etc, but not too few so that there isn't enough scope for plot development as those characters interact with each other.
The subject of the book is interesting enough - I like the idea that there are, somewhere in the world, just over 50 of Nostradamus' quatrains waiting to be discovered and have their contents made known. I do like a mystery / thriller with a historical background and the added spice of a secret society who would kill to keep a secret just that.
I realise that I say this a lot in book reviews on here, but I would recommend this book to those who enjoyed the Da Vinci Code or some of the genre related books that have followed in its wake - just don't expect it to be as gripping and you shouldn't be too disappointed. Lower your expectations a little, and you might just enjoy it like I did. 4 stars, thanks for reading.
Currently available on Amazon for £5.24 brand new
Throw a small stone at almost any bookshelf and the chances are you will hit at least one where the plot involves the search for some long-lost artifact. A decade after its publication, the runaway success of The Da Vinci Code is still being felt with many authors jumping on the bandwagon, looking to emulate its success. Sadly, The Nostradamus Prophecies has fallen off the bandwagon and ended up in the middle of the road with a broken leg
Shortly before his death, the French seer Nostradamus hid his final 58 quatrains (predictions) and gave them to his daughter for safekeeping. No-one knows what they contained or why Nostradamus chose to withhold them, but it is widely believed that they predicted the exact date of the end of the world. When Nostradamus researcher, Sabin, is offered these predictions by a mysterious gypsy, it leads him into a fight with a deadly assassin who wants them for himself.
The Nostradamus Prophecies really offers almost absolutely nothing new and appears to use The Da Vinci Code as a blueprint for success. The lead character is a Nostradamus researcher looking for fortune and glory from being the one to decipher the lost quatrains (in other words, a thinly veiled Robert Langdon), he is accompanied on his quest by a feisty female gypsy whose help is initially unwanted, but ultimately proves crucial (cue: Sophie Neveu). They are pursued by an assassin determined to get his hands in the manuscript and who, although not an albino, still has a physical defect in that there are no whites in his eyes. And finally, they are led across France by a series if clues left by Nostradamus himself. It's almost The Da Vinci Code with a few minor details changed
On one level, this is a fair criticism and the lack of originality is a bit of an issue. On another level, however, it is superior to many Dan Brown wannabes because it is reasonably well-written and engaging. The plot might be derivative, but at least it kept me interested. It has everything that is essentially to this genre: regular discoveries, frequent instances of danger and a hook that drags the reader in (after all, who isn't interested in the end if the world?!). Reading has a very readable style. After the fashion of thriller writer James Patterson, he keeps chapters very short (often only a couple of pages long) which keeps the reader reading. Long after you have decided to stop, you find yourself still reading because "the next chapter is only a couple of pages long"...
The one original element that he does introduce is probably what lifts it above similar books. The novel is set amongst the French gypsy community and, in many ways, you could argue this is the main focus of the book, rather than the actual prophecies. Reading introduces ideas of gypsy philosophy, culture and religion and portrays them in a very positive light. Rather than offering the lazy, traditional image of gypsies as dirty, scrounging thieves, Reading shows they have complex belief systems and social structures of their own. Moreover, these ideas and beliefs form an essential part of the plot, so whilst it's interesting, it also has relevance to the wider adventure.
The real disappointment comes with the ending. In fact, the book doesn't really end, so much as fizzle out. One minute, the lead character is in mortal danger, the next he has been rescued in extremely unlikely conditions and is perfectly safe. I hate it when authors put their characters in situations from which they have no clear idea how to extract them and so have to resort to cheating. It's anti-climactic and makes you feel like you've been wasting your time.
Worse, what follows this unlikely escape is even more ridiculous and unsatisfying After 300 or so pages chasing the lost prophecies of Nostradamus, Reading does absolutely nothing with them. The author adds nothing to the Nostradamus mythology and tells the reader nothing about the "end if the world" that is not already known. It's not as bad as "...and they all went home and had their tea", but it's close. It feels like a lazy, uninspired ending and leaves a really negative final impression of an otherwise passable book.
It's not the worst example of its kind out there, but it is a book you are only going to want to read once, so pay as little as possible for it. I got it on the Amazon Kindle Daily Deal for just 99p, which was fine. I really wouldn't recommend paying more than a couple of pounds for it, though, so if you're burning to read yet another "lost artifact" adventure, a second hand bookshop is probably your best bet.
The Nostradamus Prophecies
Atlantic Books, 2009
(c) copyright SWSt 2013
The Nostradamus prophecies is a book written by Mario Reading and is the hunt for the missing 'lost; prophecies of 15th century French seer Michael Reading.
The book is set in modern day Southern France and is firmly in the Dan Brown style of action thriller, the book starts with an American professor meeting a gypsy in a bar who claims to have the lost prophecies, the gypsy acts oddly and causes a scene where the American (Adam Sabir) is injured with a beer glass and the gypsy deliberately mingles his blood with the American. The gypsy is soon found dead after being tortured by a hired assassin from a secret French society who has strange eyes, the authorities think the American is the killer and a manhunt begins.
The gypsy's sister (Lola) captures Adam and they escape into the gypsy culture, they become close and Adam discovers that Lola is a direct descendant of Nostradamus. Given a clue they are soon charging around Southern France on the hunt for more clues as to the lost prophecies, the mysterious killer is one step behind and the police one step further behind.
The premise of the novel sounds intriguing, you have the prophecies of Nostradamus, the gypsy culture and at first a set of clues which appears to be interesting and exciting. Unfortunately that's where the novel ends for me, the book has a good start and a reasonable end everything in between is terrible, the book is a terrible Dan Brown rip-off with the know it all American, secret societies, incompetent policemen, and a deadly assassin. If Dan Brown wasn't so rich anyway I'd suspect he might be suing over copyright.
This was for me the worst novel I've read for the last 2-3 years, probably since David Mitchells Cloud Atlas, the dialogue is terrible, characters change purely to fit into the plot and then return to their previous characters after the plot has moved on. There is little character development and some of the coincidences used do defy belief, one at the end of the book almost had me laughing with the unlikeliness.
This is a book which sounds great on the cover, it promises exciting adventures, prophecies and a string of believable clues in the end it delivers nothing but the worst trite rubbish Dan Brown and others have been putting out for the last decade. If you like Dan Brown then you'll probably enjoy this book but if you think he's a hick writer with little talent then it's best to avoid it.