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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 12 October 2014
Excellent story of a struggle against the odds - romance, heroism, fortitude and the death of magic. A novel premise that lies at the core of the story. I loved how a young Jewish woman takes charge and alters the course of her country's history. Some great characterisation; slimy politicians, despotic princes, bewildered princeling, berserk warrior, devious dwarves, cruel mages, beautiful heroine, genius librarian (! yes, I wrote 'librarian'). All play their part. I loved it!
3 people found this helpful
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on 16 May 2018
Brisk-paced, hugely entertaining, with unexpected plot twists, humour and tragedy. Perhaps a little too much 21st Century British English for the time and place, but that detracts nothing from this excellent book.
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on 12 July 2014
A well constructed slightly different Middle Ages with quite a few interesting intellectual thoughts to ponder about the nature of magic. A good holiday read, as you need to be deep in it otherwise you might lose the plot.
2 people found this helpful
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on 8 April 2014
Some fabulous ideas and some obvious parallels with our own world (this is alt. history where magic takes the place of technology). What happens when everything you rely on (magic for electricity, technology etc.) disappears? Arcanum explores this and I had a hoot reading it but was left feeling like Simon had tried to cram too much in - i.e. I'd like more.
Hence only the three stars - call it 3 and a 1/2
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on 7 June 2014
I bought this book on the strength of the 'glowing' reviews of other Amazon readers, and was really looking forward to a compelling (if somewhat long) read. How disappointed I was! I finally threw the towel in at page 422 - a new experience for me as I can't actually recall ever having done so before. As I'm retired now, I read 3/4 books a week, and rarely (if ever) fail to finish one - even if I'm not really enjoying it, so Arcanum is a 'first' for me.

I found the plot weak; the prose dull and tedious and and the characters poorly drawn and totally uninspiring. Indeed, I considered the whole book infantile and amateurish in its concept and storyline. Arcanum is most certainly not to be compared with the fantasies produced by the great writers that we all know and love.

There is much I could say about the individual characters, but it will suffice to observe that they are shallow, unconvincing and uninteresting. Sprouting dwarves, shrinking giants, a berserker huntsman, a feisty jewess who morphs from a rebellious housekeeper to become the consort of a 12 year old prince!

Yes, I appreciate that its a fantasy, but it simply did not convince; it did not grip and it became more tedious with each passing page - on reflection, I'm surprised that I made it to page 422!

I acknowledge that my comments are in conflict with the many positive reviews of this book, but I felt compelled to record my views so that the potential buyer has a different perspective to consider.
6 people found this helpful
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on 9 February 2014
After years of reading fantasy and Sci-Fi its common to find that everything you read reminds you of something else! Indeed eventually the reader might despair of finding anything really "new".

Happily though I do occasionally discover a gem of an author, Mr Morden is one of these finds!

This is a taught well rounded tale that manages to wring something new out of a familiar genre. Great characterisations of flawed recognisable human beings that are easy to identify with and care about.

I look forward to the next in the series.
4 people found this helpful
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on 30 January 2014
It's not Petrovitch. It was never going to be Petrovitch.

But's it's good. Very good.

I like the characterisation. I like the premise, and I like the plot. What brings it up from ordinary to awesome is the clear narrative thread that runs through the whole book, hooking the reader in from the first couple of chapters and drawing them along for the ride. An excellent read.
2 people found this helpful
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on 28 June 2014
One of the best books I have read recently, very immersive with intriguing ideas explored. I love the crossover between fantasy and science fiction. Such a shame to leave the world Morden has created behind when finishing the book.
2 people found this helpful
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on 6 February 2014
Buying a book by an unknown (to me) author is a gamble. I check the back for favourable comments from people I've read or heard of; I check the writing style and ambience by reading random pages as I leaf through. I read the first three or four pages (I read fast) in case the author's narration fails, or the characterisation falters. If it passes all the tests, I usually buy it. Despite the test, many books fail to be enjoyable reads; the author may have a style quirk that only become apparent after 25 pages, perhaps the characters never fully materialise, or a *deus ex machina* falls into the story so heavily that it squashes my disbelief.

This book passes with flying colours. If you read a lot, you'll know that sense of increasing happiness as you realise you can trust the author to tell the story: you can relax and let the book take you wherever it's going. In *Arcanum* Simon Morden tells a good story well.

I don't like spoilers, so I won't say too much in detail. I've encountered the plot (the disappearance of magic) and similar locations before, but rarely peopled with such well-formed characters. Morden seems comfortable writing both male and female characters although, to be fair, the females are fairly martial in their various ways. There are some half-predictable plot twists - nothing in this style, written this well, ends with everyone living happily ever after - but they work, and the ending is solid, tidy, satisfying.

What to compare it with? What to read if you want more like this? Michael Scott Rohan comes to mind, although this is a book about ordinary people doing extraordinary things rather than heroes doing legendary deeds, and I find Morden's writing style less … formal … is the best word I can think of. More conversation, less soliloquy. I was reminded of Avram Davidson's *The Phoenix and the Mirror*. And of course I can hope that Simon Morden writes more in this vein, because I'd like to read more of it. Please :-)
3 people found this helpful
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