After reading Da Vinci Code I've became a Dan Brown fan, having enjoyed both Da Vinci Code, and Angels and Demons (still to read The Lost Symbol), as well as the film adaptations of both books. I've also been quite interested in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, and although I've still to get a copy of the actual book, I've read up on the story, and love anything connected to the epic poem, so I was really looking forward to seeing how Brown would utilise this masterpiece.
Harvard Professor, Robert Langdon wakes up in Florence, Italy, not remembering the last two days, or the fact that he was in Florence. He soon begins to be hunted by a group of people who appear to want him dead, and with the help of a doctor, named Sienna Brooks he has to unravel a mystery that's inspired by Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.
This was a good book, and a very enjoyable read, but there were also things about this story that were disappointing. Dan Brown once again goes to Harvard Professor, Robert Langdon as the main character of his story, and since the hit success of Da Vinci Code it looks like his future story will revolve around the mystery solving professor. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad thing, as it makes his stories feel connected, even though they're stand alone. In this novel Brown does a brilliant job of putting Langdon in a new, and unique environment, which is what really grabbed my attention at the start of the book. Another thing I really like about the Langdon novels is that they are all stand alone stories, and although you can see similarities, you don't need to read any of the prior novels to enjoy the one you're reading. Brown also does a marvellous job of giving us a suspenseful, and dramatic story, that has plenty of twists, and turns making the reader question what happens next. There were however parts of the story that felt slightly dragged out, with certain things being repeated too much, which was really disappointing, even though the overall story was entertaining, and gripping, being hard to put down.
The story starts with Langdon waking up in a hospital in Florence, not even realising that he wasn't in America any more, having lost the last two days of his memories. Now as I said, this really interested me, as with a main character that can't remember what he's done in the last couple of days makes the story as much of a mystery to him as it does to the reader. Also added the fact that he's in an hostile environment, it gives a psychological suspense to the story, as with no memory of the last two days he's obviously confused over the fact that people are after him, which I found really interesting, and entertaining. I also liked the way that Brown developed the Langdon character, using these new circumstances to take Langdon out of his comfort zone, making him adapt as a character.
Like previous Langdon novels, Langdon has a female assistant, that helps him unravel the mysteries. This time round one of the doctors treating Langdon, named Sienna Brooks saves Langdon from death, and helps him escape captivity. I found Sienna a very interesting character, and although this book isn't Brown's best in the Langdon series, Sienna is in my opinion one of the best side character's that Brown has created. She was very unique, and different from any other character I have read, and the mysterious nature behind her made her that much more interesting. I also liked how she was a very deep character, with a lot of development throughout the story, as it is shown that she is highly intelligent, whilst also having suffered in life. The interaction, and chemistry between Sienna, and Langdon throughout this novel was also very interesting, and entertaining, and I found the pairing to be very dynamic, and exciting, making the novel that much more dramatic.
The people that were after Langdon were also very interesting, and mysterious people, and although they weren't as interesting as Sienna, nor as unique, they were still very interesting, and their involvement made the story that much more dramatic. What I loved most about them was the mystery to them, as they seemed to be very private, not wanting people to know anything about them. It was however the person who hired this group, and the main antagonist of the story that interested me the most when it came to the opposition. I won't name the character, as although he is named later in the book, it remains a mystery at the start, and I'd prefer not to spoil that for readers, but I will say what I thought of the character. Now he doesn't make many physical appearances in the story, mainly featuring in flashbacks, or recollections, but he definitely had a huge impact on the story. Again this antagonist was a very mysterious character, and not like your usual villain, which made him a bit more unique. He did however like a lot of antagonists have an agenda, and goal, believing that it was the greater good, which although not very unique, it yet again added more depth, and drama to the story.
I finally come to the key fact that interested me the most in this story, and the main reason I was looking forward to reading it, and that was the connection to Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. I mainly got interested in Dante's Divine Comedy, and mainly the Inferno part a few years ago with the release of the Dante's Inferno video game, and although I'm still to get round to reading the epic poem itself, I have read up on it, and know the main plot details. So how does this novel utilise Dante's Divine Comedy in it's story? There are plenty of references to the poem, and mainly the Inferno part, with the main antagonist being highly inspired by Dante's work, and Langdon himself also being an admirer of Dante. The puzzles, and mysteries involved in the story also heavily utilise Dante, and extracts from his epic poem, and overall I loved the references, and the way Brown has utilised Dante's work to create something dramatic, and different. It may however disappoint a lot of people who are more into Dante, and his work than I am, and I know there are people who were disappointed, but for me it was a nice addition, and although there were points that could have been better, Brown did a very good job.
As with all the Robert Langdon novels, this book also had lots of symbolism, and artwork throughout. With the novel being centred mainly in Florence I knew there would be some famous artwork mentioned during this story, and like always Dan Brown did an amazing job of describing these wonderful pieces of art, which included La Mappa dell’Inferno by Sandro Botticelli, The Battle of Marciano by Giorgio Vasari, as well as Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, and Dante's death mask, just to name a few. Brown also did a brilliant job of having the artwork fit in with the story, choosing the ones that best fitted the Dante theme. I also loved how like the previous Langdon novels, Brown had Langdon describe the symbolism in certain pieces of artwork, as well as other symbols featured in the story, showing why Langdon novels are so unique, and interesting.
This story also had Langdon moving about quite a bit, visiting some amazing locations. Again as with the artwork, Brown did a fabulous job of describing some of the phenomenal architecture that Italy has to offer, having Langdon visit some of Florence's most famous tourist attractions. I won't go into any more details about Langdon's travels in this book, as they may spoil certain parts of the story, but I will say that I think that it made the story much more unique, and suspenseful, and Brown did an amazing job in this department.
In this novel, Brown also added some dramatic, movie like action sequences. Now I wasn't too sure if I liked this or not, as although it added a lot more drama, and suspense to the story, it felt slightly forced, which wasn't nice. I also felt that Brown was trying to add some brilliant movie style sequences into his book, as to make it easier to adapt to a big blockbuster movie, like Da Vinci Code, and Angels and Demons have, which was also slightly disappointing, even though I'm sure this is just coincidence, as most writers never think about their work getting made into a film, seeing that as a respectful bonus. Overall I wasn't really too disappointed with this, as it was very suspenseful, and dramatic, and didn't take away from the overall story.
I thought I'd finish with the part of this story that irritated me the most, the twist at the end. I say it irritated me, but to be honest I wasn't sure if I loved it, or hated it, as there were things, that I liked, and things that I hated, but if I had to make an overall judgement, I'd say that I was hugely disappointed. Now I won't go into details about the twist, or what happened, but I will say my thoughts, and why I feel it was disappointing. First of all, the changes that it made to what was true was just confusing, and although I understood what was happening, it just didn't seem realistic, and was just too far over the place. In saying that there was one other twist in this story that I loved, and although I saw it coming, it was still very entertaining, and dramatic, and Brown handled it perfectly, which slightly makes up for the rest.
This was a very interesting, and mysterious novel, that was also at time entertaining. It was however nowhere near the same level of quality as Da Vinci Code, and some of the twists were really disappointing. At the same time it was a very enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery thrillers, or Dan Brown novels, but would also say not to have high expectations.