I managed to read this book last week in the sunshine and it was such a treat.
Taryn Cornick believes her sister Bea was deliberately run down and killed. She believes it so hard she allows a man called the Muleskinner to exact the justice Bea was denied. An eye for an eye.
Which is when Taryn’s problems really begin.
Because the police suspect Taryn’s involvement in the death.
Worse, others have their eyes on Taryn – those in a faraway place who know what Taryn’s family have been carefully hiding in their vast library. The Absolute Book.
They want it – and they want Taryn to help find it.
For the lives of those in more than one world depend upon it . . .
Originally I had planned to post a review for this book at the end of last week, but once I finished reading it I found that I needed a pause just to ruminate on my thoughts about it because it was a big read, in both size and ideas and I needed the space to formulate what I would say about it.
This is the first Elizabeth Knox book I have read and I have to say it did take me a while to get used to her writing style, it is eloquent and atmospheric and full of wonderful descriptions, but I did also spend a fair portion of the beginning of the story in a bit of a confused state, always feeling like I’d missed a part of the story. As I got into the rhythm of the writing I found I understood it a lot better but there were still times that something would happen that wouldn’t have enough context to make sense and sometimes it would be explained later but sometimes it wouldn’t. I also at points started to get a little frustrated at some of the language used, I’m fairly well-read and any words I don’t know I can usually surmise from the rest of the sentence but there were often times I had to stop to look up a word just to see what I was dealing with. Doing this a couple of times is fine but the more I have to do this the more I start to feel like a book is beyond me and with a book that is already quite a lot to take in I started to feel like The Absolute Book was just inching too far over the line.
I think it’s safe to say that you need to go into this book with a very open mind when it comes to the story because it has elements of a few genres and I think if you go into it thinking its one or the other you’ll be disappointed. I personally loved getting swept away on this mesmerising journey through many lands and places and with some beguiling characters, I enjoyed the contrast between our world and the Sidhe’s world and then also between the utopia that it projects and the sacrifices that have to be made to keep it. Maybe it’s the bibliophile in me but I also loved the thread of the story about libraries, the curated knowledge of books and how that shapes our histories, I found it fascinating and as a sparking off point for the quest for “the firestarter” it was brilliant. I do wish I could go into more detail but The Absolute Book is unlike any story I have read before and there’s no way I could successfully summarise anything more, it’s best just to experience it for yourself.
There are some quite fantastical characters in this story, most steeped in myth or legend, but none quite as interesting as Shift, an oddity from the second he shows up in the story but the kind that I felt immediately curious about, I found the story of his life so interesting and the more I found out the more I wanted to know. I wouldn’t say I was drawn to Taryn, she is a difficult character to get to know, we find out a lot about what has happened to her but not always much deeper than that but since she is so intrinsic to the story and because of the loyalty she showed to both Shift and Jacob she did start to grow on me. Jacob was another character that I immediately warmed to, the police officer that needs the answers to his questions and ends up unwittingly embroiled in Shift and Taryn’s quest, and even though he is suspicious of Taryn, he still can’t help but help her.
In my opinion the pacing was unhurried, mainly due to the amount of rich description, and since there is so much within this story I think it does suit it, however, there were times that this meant that some scenes that warranted a little bit more suspense were a little bit too drawn out. I also wasn’t sure how I felt about the ending, I liked the idea just not the entirety of the execution, it felt like a very different atmosphere to the rest of the story, maybe that is the point and it didn’t spoil the rest of the experience but it was a little jarring.
The Absolute Book is an epic achievement of a story and you can tell there has been a lot of care and thought poured into it and whilst it does leave me with the feeling that I almost have to be otherworldly to understand its full potential, I definitely adored the adventure that it took me on.