Siege Of Heaven by Tom Harper
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Blimey! That took a long time. A long time finishing and a long time starting to do anything. When I was (hurrah!) done, all I could think was- it came, it was there and now it’s gone again. And it felt to like it got longer each time I picked it up.
I really couldn’t see what the point of the book was. I couldn’t see what the aim of the book or the story was. Usually it’s fairly clear from the start, or from the blurb on the inside, or the back, so you’re in the frame of mind to measure it against that premise. For good or bad, I read this on the iPad and iPhone, without the blurb, so I just went straight in. And it didn’t capture me. I didn’t find myself caring about any of the characters. Not him the main man, the name escapes me, not Nike…what’sit, not the Caliph or any of them. My eye and mind skated around the book in search of something to get a grip on. Without finding anything.
It seems to be set in the First Crusade, with, what might be a Greek envoy from the Holy Roman Emperor, or someone or somewhere, on tour in the Middle East of the 11th Century, ending up going here and there and finally taking part in the capture of Jerusalem in 1099.
It was s a new style on me. One that sags for the first third, then picks up. And then doesn’t.
But, if nothing else, it wins this years most ridiculous, no one anywhere has ever or would ever – outside of a book – think of this simile : “my soul was trembling like a broken sword.” Do broken swords ’tremble’? Maybe they do.
What is it with novels and people’s soul? I mean, outside books, the church and the odd Deep Purple song, when did you ever hear anyone discuss their soul, with you? Down the pub? At work? I don’t think so. And, of course, the longer ago a book is set, the more a discussion of one’s soul, is taken as being both ‘what they got up to’ and an indicator of the story being ‘set a long time ago.’ He relies on us believing, like he clearly does, that a person’s soul is an important indicator of their character, their suffering or their, well…we’re obviously supposed to read it as some deep, probably meaningful, insight, the mere mention of someone’s ‘soul.’ Has your soul ever felt ‘twisted,’ by the way? Have you ever ripped something from ‘the very depths’ of your soul? Has your boss ever said that he/she didn’t want you to go to somewhere, Jerusalem in the First Crusade, for example? THAT would feel like he/she had ‘ripped out part of (your) soul.’ (though, watch out, as Jerusalem is a ‘loathsome city’ that will wrap itself ‘tight around (your) soul’, if you’re not careful). Didn’t know that? It was obviously possible back then. Even common, by the looks. Something modern life has left us unable to feel, clearly. Peter Bartholomew (the madman who tried to lead the Crusade, but wasn’t born high enough), on the other hand, “plucked a string that resonated in all (their) souls.” Just think what we’re missing nowadays!
There’s page after page of people, prophets, priests, recounting, reciting and answering straightforward ‘yes’ ‘no’ questions, with paragraphs, pages, yards, hours of religious ‘all shall be revealed to those who can see’– type nonsense babble. Really wearing. Doing nothing, going nowhere. I don’t doubt that this sort of thing used to go on, especially as they thought they were in the ‘End Of Days’ (though more because they wanted to see ‘The Lord Himself,’ than any real, indisputable evidence of His Return) and looked for the signs to fulfil some idiot or others’ prophecy of such. It would, like the book, try the patience of a saint. And I’m no saint.
I’ll giver it two stars ‘cause it was long and he’d clearly spent a lot of time on it.