Book Reviews
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on The Serpent’s Circle: Patrick Harpur
The Serpent’s Circle: Patrick Harpur

Tom, a novice with The Little Brothers of the Apostles, an order of monks in the West of England, accidentally witnesses part of his friend George’s initiation at the ancient burial mound near the Abbey. Later, his gift of second sight (he can see the auras of those around him), the mysterious disappearance of George and a confidence imparted by his mystical mentor, a monk called Joachim, trigger doubts about the form of religion practised by the Brotherhood, until events escalate, twisting and turning to the intense and nail-biting end.

This is a very filmic novel, although I did have some problems visualizing the opening scenes at the burial mound – due probably to the odd formation of the structure itself. I found the constant scene-shifting in the first third of the story somewhat irritating – the sections seemed too short, the tension-creating device too obvious. For me, the characters could have been developed more – some seemed pretty sketchy and stereotypical, yet even had me doubting that they’d do or say the things they did at times, which tended to catapult me out of the story.

The story and the action are the driving forces of this novel; it’s very much in the thriller genre but thrillers being not exactly my thing I’m probably not the best person to review it. It is well-written though, and beautifully plotted, but I’d have liked more depth and detail regarding the esoteric side – there’s the sense that this is a good hook for selling novels, but there seemed a lack of passion and deep knowledge of the subject on the part of the author, clearly not true given his publishing record, which includes non-fiction esoterica.

To be fair, this did pretty much hold me all the way through, and I thought that using the Foot and Mouth Epidemic as part of the plot was a stroke of brilliance. There are some wonderful descriptions around that section of the novel too – that of the fleeing wildlife is unforgettable.

Shades of Dan Brown here? I’m not sure – I thought the Da Vinci Code a good read (although I won’t be reviewing it as there’s been enough said about it already), and this certainly did have that feel too. And I couldn’t help seeing the albino badger at the beginning as Dan Brown’s albino monk – maybe he was inspired by The Serpent’s Circle…

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