First line: A snow-bearded , elderly man is seated at the head of a refectory table, close to a fire, with his head bowed.
The Rose Labyrinth, by Titania Hardie, follows the same path laid down by The Da Vinci Code and even The Memorist. This book, like the others, weaves in past mysteries with contemporary events, linking characters to legendary figures of England’s history. In this case, the links are made to John Dee, one of Queen Elizabeth’s trusted advisors during her reign in the 1600s. In the Rose Labyrinth, author Titania Hardie touches on reincarnation, geneology, spiritual fundamentalism as well as a number of other hefty themes through her somewhat convoluted storyline. A steady cast of characters, five trying to solve the riddle set forth by hidden papers of John Dee to save the world, and another group trying to use the riddle to bring havoc into the world.
Hardie has definately done her research for this novel, but the information is overwhelming for anyone who was not an English major in college. There are numerous references to literature, philosophy, historical texts and it is a lot of keep up with. The first few chapters of the novel are engaging and set the foundations of the characters really well, defining good from bad with only a few words. As I got to the heart of the novel, the characters took on a rather esoteric state of intelligence that didn’t seem real to me. The novel reminded me too much of Da Vinci Code and more recently The Memorist and seemed slightly formulaic in that respect. Hardie is a talented author, her descriptions of England and France are fantastically written and she is at her best when she writes about the characters themselves. The John Dee riddle is somewhat convoluted, muddied by too many references to literature and astrology, and all the references to history make is easy for the reader to get lost in the shuffle. I had to go back and reread a few of the pages only to realize that to fully appreciate the novel I would need copies of all the works she references, to really understand what she is talking about. Its not a terrible read, but it wasn’t an easy one to get through either. This is a good book for literary buffs, but not so much for someone who is just looking for a good mystery.
FINAL GRADE: B-The Rose Labyrinth Titania Hardie Atria Books, 2008 1416584609 386 pages