Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: The Medusa Amulet by Robert Masello

Published: April 26, 2011
Publisher: Bantam
464 pages
A brilliant but skeptical young scholar named David Franco embarks on a quest to recover a legendary artifact: a beautifully carved amulet that was created by Benvenuto Cellini, the master artisan of Renaissance Italy.

What begins as a simple investigation quickly spirals into a twisting, turning tale of suspense and intrigue, a race against time that carries Franco across continents and centuries in a desperate search for this ultimate treasure—and a work of unimaginable power . . . and menace.
Aided only by a beautiful young Florentine with a conspirator’s mind and dark secrets, Franco is soon caught up in a life-and-death struggle from which there is no escape. Relentlessly pursued by deadly assassins and demons of his own, in the end he must confront—and defeat—an evil greater than anything conjured in his worst nightmares.

I loved Robert Masello's previous book, Blood and Ice, so I bought The Medusa Amulet the day it was released; I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into it. The premise is right up my alley: history blended with a touch of the supernatural.

In 16th century Italy, artist Benvenuto Cellini creates a looking glass with water from a gorgon pool hidden behind the mirror granting immortality to anyone that gazes into it. Powerful, mysterious people would do anything to acquire it. The story is told in third person giving multiple character's points of view, and the time frame alternates between skipping through history to present day until the story converges at the finale.

The book is filled with lavish descriptions of Renaissance art and history, and since it's told in third person (in this case, somewhat distancing), it felt like an unnecessary data dump at the expense of character development.  I couldn't connect with any of the characters.

Immediately I felt manipulated by the contrived plot:  A mysterious woman asks David Franco to look for  an amulet that he's not sure even exists, but ultimately he accepts the job with the hope of saving his sister who is dying of breast cancer.  Readers are told they're close, but I just didn't feel it. As soon as Franco lands in Italy, he encounters a beautiful experienced scholar working as a tour guide that agrees to help him.  Too. easy.

In chapter twenty-four there is a battle between two dark arts practitioners at a private gathering at Marie Antoinette's home. This was masterfully written, and I got my hopes up for the rest of the book, but the finale, the big reveal, was anti-climatic, once again because it was far too easy for the characters to pull off.

As it turns out, this book really wasn't for me. My expectations were too high because I enjoyed Blood and Ice so much.  I have to rate The Medusa Amulet:

The Medusa Amulet by Robert Masello received a starred review by Kirkus, and has a good average rating on Amazon and Good Reads.  Readers that enjoy books by Dan Brown may want to give this book a try.

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Thanks for the feedback. Be well, and happy reading!

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