Friday, September 10, 2010

Mini-Review: The Chamber of Ten by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

I picked up The Chamber of Ten by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) just before travelling to Europe for work. It is the latest book in Lebbon and Golden’s loose series of The Hidden Cities and is set in Venice where an archaeological team unearths something important and unexpected. At the same time an ancient dark magic is unearthed, plunging the archaeological team into chaos and threatening to destroy the city. Yes, the description reads a lot like a Dan Brown knock-off or a bad Hollywood thriller, but books like this often capture the setting very well, and this is what I was looking for. I was hoping that that an interesting portrayal of Venice would help excite me for my own upcoming European adventures.

Unfortunately I was rather disappointed. The Chamber of Ten jumps immediately into action without taking much time to introduce its characters, including the city of Venice, which fails to ever emerge as a character of its own. The result is even harder with the human characters that get thrown into seemingly dangerous scenarios before the reader cares enough about what could happen to them. This all results in a big disconnect between the reader and the story.

Thankfully the story itself emerges as something interesting enough to capture the imagination and attention. By about half-way through the book I started to get really sucked into the fast-paced supernatural thriller and I only quit reading late into the evening with reluctance. Foremost in my rejuvenated interest beyond the high-octane thriller pace, were tantalizing hints about the history of Venice. Unfortunately, these hints were never realized with revelation.

While The Chamber of Ten is a bit of a breath of fresh air in the world of urban fantasy – there’s not a werewolf or vampire in sight – but is suffers under the generic feel of feeling like a Dan Brown imitation. The prose is a bit better that Dan Brown, but the storytelling is not. I think traditional SFF fans won’t find it terribly interesting and traditional thriller fans won’t buy into the speculative aspects of the story. This seems to leave The Chamber of Ten without an audience. 5.5/10

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