Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: The Witch of Babylon by D J McIntosh

Click here to read the book description.

Available at Amazon, Chapters, Penguin

I received The Witch of Babylon from Bronwyn at Penguin Canada, and was very excited to get started reading it. I was most curious to read about the history of Mesopotamia and the related areas that were described in the book description.

True to its word, it was chock full of interesting tidbits that I had no idea about. What also impressed me were the ties that these cultures had or are asserted by the author in this novel. References to books in the Bible and Greek mythological people are only two elements that made the history more understandable to me, through the associations and quotes provided.

I have to admit, a few times throughout, I was a bit confused by what was going on. I will share this with the author as partly my own fault, having taken lots of cold meds while reading. But, I was little confounded by John's motivation in leading Rap into that trap....I may have missed something there; I'm really not sure. Also, the code that John was working so hard to solve was lost on me throughout, as so many variations were mentioned; I never really understood how he worked it out in the end. Again, I blame this mostly on the head cold.

It was the chase for the code clues that kept me engrossed initially, particularly with pictoral aids along the way (call me crazy, but I do enjoy pictures, even in very grown up books!) This seemed an almost interactive feature, for the reader to participate as the story moves along. I sat for a while trying to figure out the 'magic box' from Albrecht Dürer's Melencolia I (I found 29 of the 86 ways to get 34!). Alas, too much of the information was stuck in John's head or sourced from the other characters for me to feel like I was partially responsible for unravelling the mystery.

All in all, this was a truly exciting book with so many of the elements I like. I look forward to reading more of this trilogy, but also really want to read The Witch of Babylon again (sans head cold) and really absorb the history, mythology, and wonder that is illustrated here. I think this is a starting point for further learning (for me) into ancient and present Middle East culture.

I'm also happy to be able to share a short excerpt from Chapter One of The Witch of Babylon:
Of all its chambers my favorite was one I called the vanishing room. A large, open rectangle on the top floor, to a boy it looked immense. Two huge mirrors hung on facing walls. If I stood dead center between them I could see myself telescope away to nothing. When I tired of those solitary games I’d run out through the kitchen to the back garden, a jungle of trees and overgrown shrubs. I’d sharpen sticks and tie lengths of string to make bows and arrows then lie in wait for a Cyclops to charge out from the bushes or a giant to swing down from a tree.
   Even these innocent recollections seemed tainted now by
Samuel’s death.
   By the time I walked into the party, only the serious hangers-on were left. Among them, Professor Colin Reed had zeroed in on a woman with white-blond hair and china-blue eyes who I assumed had just graduated and was therefore fair game. Tight pants and a clingy silk shirt showed off her firm, fit body.
   Reed headed off, to get drinks I assumed. As I was looking
around for Hal she caught my eye. I sent her a smile back.
   “I’m Eris,” she said when we were close enough to hear each
   “John Madison.” She moved a little nearer to me.
   “Are you with the bride’s or the groom’s party?” I asked.
I noticed her eyes widen when she laughed. They were a mesmerizing blue, so intense I wondered whether she used those contacts that enhance eye color. “Yeah, it’s funny,” she said. “Sometimes these university parties do seem as deadly as your second cousin
once removed’s wedding.”
   “You’re at NYU?”
   “No, an MIT grad. You?”
   “Columbia. But some time ago. Hal and I go way back. We’re childhood friends and lately, business associates.”
   “Isn’t he a professor?”
   “Yes. I’m an art dealer. He’s sold some art objects through me.”
  “An art dealer. That’s exotic. You must be a millionaire then.” She chuckled to show this was just a tease.

You can check out the other stops on the blog tour with these links:

Just a Lil Lost  June 13
The Literary Word  June 14
Teresa’s Reading Corner  June 15
My Ever Expanding Library (That's me!) June 16
Serendipitous Readings  June 17
Let's Book It  June 20
A Bookworm's World  June 21
Evie Bookish  June 22
Lost for Words  June 23
Snowdrop Dreams of Books  June 24


Chrystal said...

I really liked this book too. My review will be coming up on the final day of the tour. :)

Jackie said...

@Chrystal - I'll be sure to check it out. Despite being beaten up, chased and what have you, John Madison seems to have, a pretty exciting life, right?

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I've never seen this one around yet. Hm, interesting. Thanks for the review!

Jackie said...

@Melissa - I'm not sure if it's available elsewhere yet; the author is Canadian. I think it will be seeing more exposure soon though :-)

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