REVIEW: The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman

REVIEW: The Geographer’s Library by Jon FasmanThe Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman
Published: Penguin (2006), Paperback, 374pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Jon Fasman's dizzyingly plotted intellectual thriller suggests a marriage between Dan Brown and Donna Tartt. When reporter Paul Tomm is assigned to investigate the mysterious death of a reclusive academic, he finds himself pursuing leads that date back to the twelfth century and the theft of alchemical instruments from the geographer of the Sicilian court. Now someone is trying to retrieve them. Interspersed with the present action are the stories of the men and women who came to possess those charmed—and sometimes cursed—artifacts, which have powers that go well beyond the transmutation of lead into gold. Deftly combining history, magic, suspense, and romance—and as handsomely illustrated as an ancient incunabulum—The Geographer's Library is irresistible.

When I talked about this for a Thursday Tea post I mentioned that I was worried that the Amazon reviewers were right and I’d end up hating the last half of the book. Since that’d make reading the first half basically pointless, I was a little annoyed. But! Those Amazon reviewers were wrong.

That makes me really happy, actually. Sometimes it pays to listen to reviewers, but sometimes you just need to ignore them and try books out for yourself. Or maybe just listen to the reviewers you know personally, and then ignore everyone else. Or just do whatever– I don’t actually care.

Anyway, I really liked The Geographer’s Library. It does have some problems near the end, mostly because I hate it with every fiber of my being, but the rest of the book is fantastic and a really great read. If you blank out that last bit it’s even better!

I liked the intertwining plotlines, even if I couldn’t keep some of the characters straight. Paul is annoying because he’s so unprofessional (don’t mix love and business!), and his love interest is annoying because she’s obviously sketchy but everyone around her is pretending she’s not!

Their romance happens so quickly that it automatically made me suspicious, and so everything else she does made me suspicious, too. This made the ending less of a shock than I think it was supposed to have been, because SLIGHT SPOILER HERE I already knew she wasn’t all that she seemed and so the “twist”…wasn’t.

So! I didn’t like the end, I didn’t particularly like Paul, and I didn’t like the romance. But everything else? I did like. I liked the interwoven stories, like I said, and I liked the mystery. The supernatural stuff was a nice touch, too, especially since it never went overboard.

This is Mr Fasman’s first book, but it doesn’t really read like one. Besides the plot points I didn’t like, I couldn’t pick out any actual writing problems, except maybe that thing with the “twist” ending. But that happens even to seasoned writers, so I won’t hold it against him (much).

I liked The Geographer’s Library. I wish the ending was better– it was too abrupt, with a villain that explains everything (HATE that plot device), and I’m not entirely sure what happens to Paul afterwards. The mystery is also slow, really only gaining momentum in the last half of the book. But I enjoyed reading it, and I look forward to reading whatever else Mr Fasman comes up with.

Read: March 4-6, 2010

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman”

  1. Oo, I’m glad I didn’t buy this. I went to a book fair in Jefferson Parish on Sunday, and they had, like, seven copies of this book. I liked the cover but didn’t end up getting it. Whenever I see that many copies of a book at a booksale, for a dollar, I wonder what’s wrong with it. This sounds like one to check out of the library!

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely one of those books that you need to try before buying. I’m actually kind of surprised I liked it as much as I did when I DIDN’T like so much of the actual plot and writing. It was a weird experience.

      It’d probably make an awesome TV movie, though! It sort of reminds me of the Librarian movies, except with a less charming lead/romance/storyline.

  2. I liked this one too and I thought I was worried I wouldn’t because the blurb seemed very Da Vinci, but I thought it was a bit smarter than that. I think this is the same Fasman who writes msysteries set in the Ottoman Empire now…if it is then I suggest trying The Janissary Tree which is again smart and original.

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