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Tristan and Iseult Paperback – 28 Apr 2013
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This is a beautiful book. By that I mean the book itself is a pleasing artefact. The cover looks and feels good. The fonts, the images, the slightly raised appearance of the lettering of the title, even the quality of the paper, all combine to make this novel a pleasure just to hold. And in this age of the rise of the e-book that's no bad thing.
Personal note: Don't get me wrong I like my e-reader, but there are times when only the real thing will do. I hope both paper and e-books will co-exist for a long time to come.
So, just holding this novel sets the reader up for a quality reading experience. Proof of the value of a good cover? And it might surprise the reader to know that the cover is actually designed by the author. A surprise, that is, unless you know that JD Smith is also a graphic designer and has designed countless stunning book covers for other writers.
But was I be right to judge this book by its lovely cover? I wasn't disappointed. Expectations of a good read were wholly justified.
The story is based on a medieval legend which is itself based on an even older tale dating back to Pictish times. As you'd expect several versions of the story exist as well as at least one opera and a film version. JD Smith has, however, made it her own in this book.
Set at the time when Briton was defending itself from Saxon attack, Tristan is a knight and nephew to Mark, King of Briton. Iseult is a woman of royal Irish blood. These three become part of a love triangle with very high personal and political stakes. The story has romance, poignancy, suspense, action and intrigue. It ticks several genre boxes so is never formulaic. It is beautifully set up by the author. Her feeling for the period landscape means the integrity of the setting never falters. The telling is perfectly paced. The characters are completely believable. The tone, phrasing and rhythm of the prose are excellently judged to provide appropriate atmosphere and authenticity to the telling. Not only that the prose has a wonderfully light touch. It manages that rare thing - to be both sparse and multi-layered simultaneously. The telling may be economical but the story has the feel of a richly detailed medieval tapestry.
This is a first novel from JD Smith and it will appeal to, and deserves, a wide readership. I look forward to more novels from this author.
This is the work of an excellent writer and I look forward to reading more of her novels.
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This tells a reader that this book is well worth their time and money!