Review: The Book of Stolen Tales

Posted 6 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Book of Stolen Tales
By: D.J. McIntosh
Format/Source: galley courtesy of Penguin Canada via NetGalley

John Madison travels to London to purchase at auction a rare seventeenth century Italian book of fairy tales for an anonymous client. Madison is warned about the book’s malevolent history. Before he can deliver it to the buyer, he is robbed by a mysterious man claiming to be the book’s author. When his client disappears and the book’s provenance is questioned, Madison must immerse himself in the world of European artistocracy and rare book collectors. As the dark origins of certain fairy tales appear to come to life, Madison discovers that a well-loved children’s story contains a necromancer’s spell and points to the source of a deadly Mespotamian plague.”

I read the first book to this trilogy, The Witch of Babylon a few years ago and greatly enjoyed it (but never got around to writing a review due to thesis time); it was unique and featuring a different part of the world for this mystery-adventure. I was pretty excited when I heard that this novel, the second in the trilogy, was coming out and am thankful to have received a galley of this novel courtesy of the publishers from NetGalley. In an ideal world, I would’ve gone back to re-read the first novel before jumping into this novel, but I couldn’t wait =P

The premise of the novel was interesting with the nature of the rare volume of fairy tales to the various mysteries attached to it. Fairy tales, either re-tellings or re-imaginings or just in general, have become quite popular lately but it’s always interesting to read about variations to fairy tales that we know either from the Grimm brothers or from Disney. But from there, McIntosh crafts an interesting tale tying in mafia activities, a deadly disease, supernatural elements concerning death, history and the afterlife and, of course, Mesopotamian culture.

Had I had time I would have re-read The Witch of Babylon to reacquaint myself with John Madison’s character and backstory but his story and events from the first book are mentioned here and there over the course of this novel so it helped me remember what his character was like and what he recently went through. I don’t think there’s too much development with his character in this novel except that he is still recovering from events that happened to him in the first novel.

Meanwhile, the other characters introduced in this novel were interesting, especially the women. Throughout the novel I felt like Madison, unsure whether to trust Dina or Katharina: who’s telling the truth? Who’s lying and why? Who has the most to gain in the present situation? The main antagonist in this novel, Mancini, is a formidable and downright terrifying guy and the mysterious character of Alessio provided the intrigue and creepiness factor to the novel.

The pacing of The Book of Stolen Tales is just right; while it was a bit slow at the beginning with the mystery is introduced and all of the characters take their place in the story, there was a lot of information covered, making things interesting as the reader goes along. It picks up speed once John arrives in Napoli, Italy and really takes off from there. I thought it was great that part of the novel takes place in Napoli as opposed to the more familiar cities of Roma or Firenze for this novel because I’ve never been to Napoli and there’s so much about that city that’s not only unique and interesting but it also ties in naturally to the feel of the novel.

Overall, The Book of Stolen Tales is a fine continuation of McIntosh’s Mesopotamian trilogy and can definitely work as a standalone. Usually second books in a trilogy lag a bit compared to the first and third novels but this book was intriguing and action-packed. My only major issue with this novel is how the ending sort of lagged after the climax of the story and everything was resolved; it could have easily been condensed into one chapter as opposed to stretching it to two chapters (or was it three? I can’t remember). I highly recommend this novel for fans of Dan Brown, Steve Berry, James Rollins and all related novelists who write these kinds of history-mystery-adventure novels.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Visit the author’s official website || Order this book from chapters.indigo.ca

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