Newest Review: ... Maleficus with their own, quite sinister reasons for wanting to acquire the quatrains. The would-be seller is a Gypsy called Babel, who ... more
A Roaring Rollercoaster of a novel packed with sizzling Gypsies? Not quite
The Nostradamus Prophecies - Mario Reading
Member Name: SWSt
The Nostradamus Prophecies - Mario Reading
Advantages: Well-paced and readable; interesting insights into Gypsy culture and lore
Disadvantages: Massively anti-climactic ending leaves you feeling like you've wasted your time
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
Summary: Some bright spots, but a poor ending leaves a very sour taste in the mouth