OK — I admit it. I don’t always adhere to the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” There are a lot of reasons that a book will make it onto my “to read” list. The cover, the description, recommendations, book reviews and — as is the case with this one — because I have already read something of the author’s. I loved Fortier’s previous book, Juliet for a myriad of reason. So, when I saw this one, I just had to read it. It is also true that when you read books based on authors, some books will be better than others. This is one of those that didn’t quite live up to the first book and certainly didn’t live up to my expectations.
In her first book, Juliet, Fortier demonstrated a writing style of combining historical fiction with a contemporary story line. In this work, Fortier takes on the speculated history of the Amazons, overlaid with an archaeological mystery. The two meet at the junction of the discovery of an unexplained burial site of a woman in a well — with a very strange arm band wrapped around a skeletal arm. Like her previous work — the supposition is that the events and people of the past have carried on into the present day. But in this case — the whole thing just got weird. For me — part of this problem could be that I have never been all that interested in Greek mythology. Consequently, my knowledge of the Amazons is limited at best. But Fortier’s development of this fanatical group of women is both overbearing and weak at the same time.
Fortier does know her mythology — or at least did some background research — and presents it in such a way that the reader comes away interested in learning more about the historical background this book is premised on. But the Amazonian women were developed into more of a religious, fanatical cult, than anything else. The fact that Diana’s crazy grandmother asserts early in the book that Diana has a connection to this mystic group of women (before she disappears into who knows where), is a strange and somewhat tenuous connection. It is just a little strange to see a struggling, non-tenured professor up and run off to who knows where to investigate the subject of her one true passion — while turning herself into a laughing stock all along the way, is just a little much. Her impulsive venture into investigative archaeology is sets her up as a character that is flighty, unreliable and unbelievable from the beginning.
As a character — Diana comes across more as the stereotypical damsel in distress, than an expert in her field of study. I consistently felt like she knew less than everyone else around her when it came to the history she was called to assist with, supposedly to provide context and background to the archaeological dig. She was out of place, out of time and out of sync with all the other characters –making it less believable and more fantastical than other books I have read. Unlike her previous book — Fortier has created a protagonist that is supposedly an expert in her field. She is someone that is suppose to be one of the foremost experts on the subject of the Amazons because she has been studying them since childhood. But everyone in the story just seems to know more than she does.
Much of this book has the feel and style of a cross between Indiana Jones and Dan Brown. There is constantly someone in the background that is trying to kidnap, steal, or otherwise impede and research project and archaeology dig. The near misses become increasingly more unbelievable with every event. Every other character has an ulterior motive — and everyone can see that except for the protagonist. It really made me want to shake her and tell her to wake up. Like Dan Brown — the fanatical cult in the background is more creepy than anything. Their motives — while transparent from fairly early in the book — are also a little unsettling in their mysterious attempts to impede investigative discovery — while still remaining hidden in the background. Simply put — it was just too much.
By the end of this one — I just felt like Fortier was being more patronizing than anything. She decided she was going to live up to the expectations created from her first book. But instead of creating something that was unique and new — she took the course of least resistance and followed what I hope is not developing into a formatted style of constant repeats with different names and places.