Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Avignon Legacy by Daniel C. Lorti


The Avignon Legacy takes us from the 14th Century and the life of Jean Termonde, a knight and papal guard, to present day and a rare book dealer, Jim Pierce, who has been "commissioned"  to acquire the tome Termonde last penned for Pope Gregory XI.  It is not the words or the ancient parchment it is written on, the document contains a message to the pope cryptically revealing the location of the lost papal treasure, with Pierce being chased by an unscrupulous collector, who -in turn- has attracted the FBI, New Scotland Yard and the French authorities to the unknown quest.  (taken from the back of the book)

This book is broken up in to two parts, so I really can't review it as one whole book.

The first part is an incredible adventure chronicling the lives of the Termonde family.  We start at the beginning of an event that has a ripple effect on the family.  We're there through the first half (or possibly more) of Jean Termonde's life.  This part of the story is actually pretty entertaining.  It's fictional history showing us what life was like at the time for a few extraordinary people.  Most of it is believable and interesting.

When it comes to the Catholic church history, there are times when it becomes a bit 'history book' but it's not too overwhelming.  Lorti makes sure that we have a good grasp of what's going on and the historical significance of it.  For me, I honestly skimmed over it.  It's not my thing.  Over all, though, it's not a lot of history.  It's enough to explain everything, but it doesn't really bog you down.  For those that ARE interested in history, you'll find a lot here to fascinate you.  I must admit, even in my skimming, I learned.

I did have an issue with the first part of the book.  It felt unfinished to me.  It follows the story of the Termonde family until we find out the necessary information that's held in the parchment, but then things are wrapped up rather quickly and we just leave them behind in the past.  I was really enjoying their story and wanted more.  For me, the first part of the book was more about the time period and character studies than it was about just getting to the story behind the parchment.  I felt jilted going from the end of this part of the book and skipping ahead to today.  I wanted more, and I still do!

The second part of the book is very much a heist story.  We have a decent cast of characters, even though they aren't as fascinating as the first part of the book.  We don't have nearly as much history thrown at us, though there is some put in as necessary.  We have some 'bad guys' and some 'really bad guys' and 'i'm not sure if they're bad or good guys.'  I didn't love any of the characters in the second part of the book, but they did play their part well.

I was intrigued with the heist portion of the story.  How do you steal something from the Vatican?  Even when you're a professional thief and have others at your disposal, that's a pretty serious theft!  Then to add in that you have thugs and all sorts of police after you, it's nearly impossible!  The sheer genius behind the planning of this heist and the attempt at pulling it off is what made the second part of the book good for me.

Even though I understand the reasoning behind writing the book in this fashion, I had some trouble with it.  The storytelling is vastly different, the characters are vastly different, the type of story is vastly different.  Notice all the 'vastly' going on there?  Both stories are enjoyable in their own way but the only thing they have tying them together is the parchment.  Again, I understand the reasoning behind writing it this way.  Honestly, I don't even have a better idea for how to make it work other than how the author did it.  For me, it was tough reading them back-to-back.  I'd suggest reading the first part of the book as one story and then going back later and reading the second part of the book.  Then, you won't have the jarring feeling.  You can enjoy the second part of the book and have that 'Oh!  I remember that!' feeling.

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