This should have been an easy book to love, but it wasn’t. I have loved Cornwell’s other books, and have been intrigued by Stonehenge for many years. Cornwell is admittedly taking on a large task by trying to unlock the mysteries of a 4,000 year old monument like Stonehenge. By using the most recent research and scientific understandings, and weaving in the fictional story of a family at war with itself trying to win the hearts and minds of their own people in a battle to determine who will lead their tribe, Cornwell had all the necessary components for a good book, bit it didn’t quite work for me.
Cornwell’s story revolves around three brothers. Lengar, the oldest, is enamored with wealth and power and when his father, the leader of the clan stands in his way of achieving those things, Lengar kills him and makes himself the head of the clan. Camaban, Lengar’s illegitimate younger brother has always struggled to know his place in the tribe. Limited by his birth and his deformed foot from being a warrior or leader of the clan, Camaban exiles himself to the forest, communing with the gods until he becomes convinced that he has been given the task of building a temple that will honor sun god above all else. But it is Saban, the youngest brother who is actually tasked with building the temple. Saban is the one who must figure out how to carefully quarry the mammoth stones, moved safely from the quarry to the site of the new temple which is 20 miles away. He must also solve the engineering problem of raising the large lintel stones to the top of the vertically standing stones without breaking them as well as figuring out how best to attach them to the standing stones so they will stay safely in place.
Although the story of Stonehenge is fascinating, I found it very difficult to identify with any of the main characters. They felt flat or sullen and at times quite mentally unstable. The descriptions of tribal life seemed fraught with instability and although I know that life was precarious then, it seemed like there was far too much unrest, and infighting for any tribe to have survived much less have had the commitment or resources to build such a temple. Unfortunately, Cornwell uses this instability as a plot device to create tension and suspense in the story, while I believe that there was more than enough tension just in the building such a massive structure to sustain a reader’s interest. Although this aspect of the story was disappointing, Cornwell is still a master at writing battle scenes and his characters, aside from being hard to identify with, are fully realized with distinctive motivations for their actions and choices.
Brenda’s rating: ** (2 out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Keith (because we saw it together!)
Book Study worthy? maybe
Read in ebook format.