PrintE-mail Written by Alister Davison

Review: The Scrivener’s Tale / Author: Fiona McIntosh / Publisher: Harper Voyager / Release Date: Out Now

When ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret encounters the seemingly delusional Angelina, his world is turned upside down. As their relationship develops, Gabe discovers that all is not as it seems, and he is introduced to the mystical realm of Morgravia.

Any readers who haven’t visited Morgravia before needn’t be worried. A prologue takes only a few pages to summarise the events of Fiona McIntosh’s Quickening trilogy, then we’re right into the thick of the action. As well as Gabe, we meet Cassien, an almost perfect warrior-assassin who is being trained by the mysterious Fynch to undertake a mission to save the Crown.

If it all seems thick and fast, it is. While this is a strength of the book – it certainly is the page-turner it claims it to be – it’s also its weakness. In this standalone novel, character backgrounds are neatly summarised within pages of meeting them; if they’re not important to the plot, then they’re described in a few throwaway words – one, for instance, is simply an ‘American student working as a casual’. It’s as if the author is trying to get such matters out of the way to crack on with the story, whereas in the four trilogies she’s previously written, Fiona McIntosh had room for a more leisurely development.

The setting suffers from the same problem. Paris is woefully underused, all too quickly cast aside for the more fantastical locations. A shame, if you're expecting a story that straddles both worlds more evenly. Yet all is not lost. The Scrivener’s Tale is filled with interesting characters and moments of poignancy and humour. If only the plot had been given more space to mature, this story would have made a brilliant trilogy. All too often, though, it moves forward based on an obscure leap of faith or a brilliant idea from nowhere, and the dialogue can be nothing more than exposition at times, characters rattling facts at each other. It’s an opportunity missed; not a bad book by any means, but McIntosh's readers will probably hope for more.

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