THE ABSOLUTE BOOK – Elizabeth Knox

After reading the reviews, I was so looking forward to the book, which I recently received as a gift.  

I devoured the book. In  two days. A  hardcover door-stopper at 626 pages. I read until 11.30 at night, determined to finish. Because: what happened??  I’m not sure the ensuing book hangover was worth it.

Basically the book is a Quest/Riddle  Story. What is the Firestarter,  what does it contain and why do people and entities want it so desperately?

The book cover yacks on about ‘the value of reading and libraries’  (which is actually a sub-theme, when all is said and  done) ; says the book is a masterpiece – it may well be the jewel in the crown in EK’s oeuvre, but  a masterpiece? No.  Not for me.

That said, it is  undeniably a tour de force of the  novelist’s imagination.

Norse mythology underpins  the story. Then there’s a 21st century  crime story which is a major story strand overlaying the Quest material. It concerns the murder of  narrator Taryn’s sister, Beatrice.   In this section there’s a fiendish  death trap , devised by Taryn’s deranged assassin who had dispatched Beatrix’s murderer, but he then  tries to kill off Taryn. He, in turn, meets an unexpected and gory  end. 

Finally,  a major portion of the book contains a beautifully imagined exploration of the world of the Sidhe, their history and habits.  It’s a major creative  accomplishment. The Sidhe and their part in the Quest story are a major component, as is Taryn and her several back story elements, particularly her relationships.

The book is a complex strand of the Quest, the Crime and the Sidhe,  and I probably need to re-read it, at a more leisurely pace to fully appreciate it.  I read rapidly, swept along by book’s rich tapestry of action, quest,  myth, and relationship dilemmas.

Certain parts of the story were absolutely  horrific, which came as quite a surprise to me.  Perhaps it was the contrast between the idyllic world of the Sidhe and the action sections.

I’ve only read one other EK  novel, The Vintner’s Luck, which is much shorter, but it blew me away twenty years ago. If you can get your hands on it, read it. It’s brilliant!

Fantasy fans will love the book.

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