The secret that will shake the world

11 Aug

‘The secret that will shake the world’ is the tagline to Simon Toyne’s 2011 novel Sanctus, itself part one of the Sancti trilogy. The plot outline immediately places it firmly in Dan Brown-holy-conspiracy-territory. A monk throws himself to his death from the oldest inhabited place on the face of the earth, a mountainous citadel in the historic (but fictional) Turkish city of Ruin. This act, witnessed by the entire world thanks to the marvels of modern media, causes the cowled and mysterious fanatics within the citadel to take extreme measures to protect a millenia-old secret. The Sancti, as this ancient monastic order are called, are the custodians of one of the greatest secrets (some would say cover-ups) in human history – one which, if it ever got out, would change everything, for everyone, everywhere. This intriguing set-up, coupled with a suitably ominous cover, is what probably attracted most people to Sanctus (which topped the bestseller lists when it was published) in the first place. It certainly worked on me, despite my somewhat disappointing experiences with similar sub-Dan Brown fare like the Templar Legacy, The Sacred Scroll and The Atlantis Code. The question is, was Sanctus just more of the same?

Simon Toyne’s explanation for the inspiration behind Sanctus is an interesting one. It’s said that, after a sleepless night crossing the English channel on a storm battered midnight ferry, he and his family abandoned a planned eight-hour drive to their new home, and limped instead to the city of Rouen in search of a hotel. It was the eerie sight of the sharp spire of Rouen Cathedral piercing the pre-dawn sky that gave birth to the fictional citadel in Sanctus. Certainly the town of Ruin itself, as well as the secretive sect of creepy monks hiding within its mountainous citadel is a successful creation. As a reader you quickly accept that Ruin is a real place. Indeed, the start of the novel is generally top-notch, with its interesting juxtaposition of a monk desperately trying to escape the clutches of his fanatical brethren within the citadel, and the more ordinary lives of its other main characters, including a New York reporter and a Ruin police officer. Hanging heavily over everything at this point (and for most of the rest of the novel) is the ‘Sacrament’ – the name that everyone gives the secret that the Sancti are hiding. And that’s the problem.

My main issue is: can you really base an entire novel on a secret and its big reveal? In one sense I suppose you can say yes, and point to any number of popular detective or mystery/conspiracy novels as evidence. If this type of storytelling was not successful then Agatha Christie would never have had a career, let alone Dan Brown and his imitators. The trouble is, for me, there’s very little to recommend Sanctus after its atmospheric and portentous opening. Although the start was compelling, I quickly lost interest as the characters failed to grab my imagination, the story got increasingly unbelievable and the writing was below par. There is no real development in terms of plot and character and, to be honest, Toyne could probably have skipped straight from chapter 4 or 5 (there are over a hundred in all) to the end without really losing anything. There are several increasingly pointless interludes involving characters who never appear again, ridiculous pseudo-‘scientific’ or ‘religious’ scenes which make no sense, several potentially interesting clues which go nowhere and, worst of all for a book that pins itself on tantalizing with the prospect of a big reveal, a corny and senseless end ‘revelation’. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone but suffice to say that in my opinion it just isn’t worth the labour involved in getting there!

For all his detractors, I have to say that I thought Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was a far better read, with a far more plausible religious secret/conspiracy at its heart. But for me, if you’re really interested in this sort of thing, Labyrinth by Kate Mosse is probably by far and away the best example of this genre. Her research into the Cathars of the 12/13 century Languedoc region of France is accurate, historically and theologically, and she weaves this expertly into her novel. Best of all she never forgets that for many readers the most important things are still plot, character development and good writing. Having a mystery at the heart of a novel is no bad thing – for a writer not to have the basic ability to tell a story, however, is quite unforgivable!

About these ads

5 Responses to “The secret that will shake the world”

  1. Morgan Mussell August 11, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    Thoughtful and excellent review. Thanks.

  2. LadyRaconteur88 August 15, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Should you accept, please follow the link below. I enjoy visiting this blog and reading your work. Thank you and well done.

    http://calliopeespeaks88.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/versatile-blogger-award-2/

  3. Steve August 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Excellent review and I agree. I was very disappointed with the book.

  4. http://wlimail.com March 23, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    I do trust all the concepts you have introduced to your post.
    They are very convincing and will certainly work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for beginners.
    May just you please prolong them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New Post from Anilbalan’s Ghost Cities: The secret that will shake the world | Hugh Paxton's Blog - August 11, 2013

    […] The secret that will shake the world […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Snapping Twig

for the THRIVE ART CREATIVE

A Round of Words in 80 Days

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life

Elizabeth Willse: Surrounded by Books

Writer, Book Blogger, Library Science Student

Armand Rosamilia

Official Site for Horror Author Armand Rosamilia

Maurice Sapiro

TONALIST AND REPRESENTATIONAL FINE ART

But Is It Art?

Pictures by Declan O'Doherty

In Flow

Creativity is within us all

Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

A blog dedicated to reviewing books, since they are "the cheapest vacation you can buy," as Charlaine Harris once said.

Joshi Daniel Photography | Images Of People

Photoblog of Images of People by Joshi Daniel

Source of Inspiration

All is One, co-creating with the Creator

Still Striving For that Elusive Halo

Thoughts, photographs and recipes of an Episcopal priest

Nicola's Photo Blog

Just another 365 project

National Trust Going Green

Fit for the Future “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Walt Disney

Cindy's Art Blog

Life-Inspired Original Paintings by Cindy Williams

Words And Peace

my book reviews and good books to read

Sagacity

The ramblings of a pilgrim through time, space, and life.

StillWalks

Bringing the outside in - beautiful walks anytime, anywhere

Mark My Words...

Peace, Love and Wordiness.

Whatever

MIGHT BE LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Matt on Not-WordPress

Stuff and things.

IDeary

"Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth" -Albert Camus

Captain Maybe

Miscellaneous musings on life, literature and lots of other stuff

Stalking Fiction: Monica Enderle Pierce

Creating Incomparable Worlds and Characters

Hooked on Books!

My obsession with the literary word....

A Tone of Seriality

goes great with milk!

roughwighting

Life in a flash - a weekly blog on daily living

Legal Matters

The University of Southampton law society magazine

The Chautauquan Daily

The official newspaper of Chautauqua Institution

John R Childress . . . Rethinking

thoughts and experiences of life, business, parenting and flyfishing

Games From Folktales

Roleplaying games from historical research

PuppyChat

Getting the most out of the South African Lifestyle

A Fuzzy Mango With Wings

My name is Ari. I am a writer. My nickname is a hirsute fruit. These are my ramblings.

Thoughts on Military History

The musings of an Aviation Historian

PLUNDER AND SALVAGE

Michael Blackburn. Poet. Writer.

History for Today

... a study of the past

kendavidstewart.com

Just another WordPress.com site

Hayley's Horror Reviews

...I have such sights to show you from the latest & past in Horror...

Oddbox Comics

Comics, Fun, and Games

I READ GOOD

and a lot

Spontaneous Combustion

The Ramblings of Grant Wamack-dreamer,writer,artist.

Allallt in discussion

Some of the ideas bouncing around my otherwise hollow head.

X-Communicated

A Step-By-Misstep Guide to Going from Bad to Worse

inversorblog

investments and media

Beatles Blog

Adventures in collecting Beatles music

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,431 other followers

%d bloggers like this: