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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations



by James Patterson and Andrew Gross

Reviewed March 14, 2003.
Little, Brown, and Company, New York, 2003.  452 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (F PAT).

I checked out James Patterson’s new book because I liked Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas so much.  Besides, the new book had a picture on the cover of my all-time favorite castle:  Bodiam Castle, in England.  Unfortunately, the book was set in southern France and at a time three hundred years before Bodiam Castle was built.  It did give a medieval feel to the cover, and it is one of the best-looking castles there is, and, well, it did help convince me to read the book, so I suppose I shouldn't complain that the castle chosen is from a completely different time than that in which the novel was set.

The book did initially get me hooked.  I was intrigued to find myself reading a historical novel set in the time of the Crusades.  I think of James Patterson as a thriller writer, and now I’d read a romance and a historical novel by him.

Peasant Hugh de Luc says good-by to his wife and joins a Crusade on the promise of winning his freedom.  Things don’t go well, but get even worse when he comes home.  He seems to have been targeted by a noble bent on finding holy relics.  Hugh seeks revenge for the wrongs done to him, and becomes a jester to get close to the noble he hates.

The story did intrigue me.  Why do I give the book only one star?  Well, I have reservations about recommending it to my friends.  The book was peppered with foul language.  The jester’s jokes were on the level of potty humor, usually teasing some noble about his sexual prowess.  In some ways, the dirty jokes and sexual situations were easy to ignore.  Some books are titillating and put you in the mind and imagination of the person having lustful thoughts.  This book merely seemed dirty, describing bodily function after bodily function.  It got tiresome by the middle of the book, though I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened.

There was also a plot hole.  The story involves the recovery of a holy relic.  When the relic is first discovered, something happens that would have ruined it, but this is completely ignored.  At the end of the book, a similar thing happens and it is said that this has ruined the relic.  Excuse me?  Didn’t that happen already?  I also had a little trouble believing that certain nobles would have treated the jester as kindly as they did.  There was some horrible violence, but again it was easy to disengage your imagination from the details, so it wasn’t as nauseating as it might have been.

I don’t mean to criticize anyone who reads James Patterson books.  I do think this one may have included bawdy humor in order to give the feel of medieval times.  Judging by The Canterbury Tales, maybe that is how they lived and joked.  Glancing in another James Patterson book, I didn’t find crude language every few pages, and it certainly didn’t happen in Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas.  Maybe this was an exception, intended to set the mood.  If so, I think it was overdone.

Again, I did read and enjoy the book.  I wouldn’t review it at all if I had disliked it.  If you’re in the mood for a quick, easy-reading adventure yarn set in the Middle Ages, and you’re willing to tolerate some potty humor, this book may fill the bill.

Reviews of other books by James Patterson:
Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas
Sam's Letters to Jennifer

Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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