Monday, May 28, 2007

Daughters of the Doge by Edward Charles

Title: Daughters of the Doge
Author: Edward Charles

ISBN # 9780230018129

Publisher: Macmillan New Writing

First Published: 2007

371 pages

Format: Hardback

Rating: 6/10

Richard Stocker, a young man from
Devon, accompanies his friend and mentor, Dr. Thomas Marwood, to Venice as personal secretary to the exiled Earl of Devon, Edward Courtenay. There, he is faced with many decisions that will affect the course of his life, challenge his beliefs and test his determination. Along the way, he finds himself entranced by three very beautiful, very different women, each of whom will turn his head and cause complications to his plans.

This novel had so much potential – an exquisite setting in one of the richest periods of history, a cast of artists and royalty, and a personable hero – but I didn’t feel it ever quite delivered on its promise.

For the most part, it reads like a novel marketed at the young adult market, but occasionally the language changes to something that is definitely more adult in nature, so that it hovers on the brink between then, neither one thing nor the other. The narrative is also constantly interrupted by the stating of specific dates throughout, which I thought hindered proceedings, rather than propelling the story forward in any way – it gave it quite a fragmented feel and I found myself only able to read it in shorter bursts, never once compelled to sit for any length of time and read a longer section in one go – there just wasn’t enough to keep me interested for longer than about twenty minutes at a time and my mind would wander.

The characters are largely two-dimensional – none of them feel particularly fleshed out, although there is a more attention given to Veronica Franco, the beguiling courtesan, and her scenes were some of the most beautiful and smoothly-written. This was partially due to the fact that those scenes were mostly within an art studio, and the only time Charles really wrote with any passion was while describing the activity within the studio and the history of different techniques – those passages were a dream to read. The narrator, Richard, was personable enough, but he seemed remarkably immature for a young man of twenty and much was made of his “coming of age”. There were constant references to his growing up (made by the man himself) which felt out of place in the text and did nothing to enhance the story. Yes, this was a coming of age, but the subtleties of his situation were more than enough to indicate this to any reader without him constantly reminding himself that he needed to mature.

The sub-story of a royal plot was, to me, the most exciting possibility, but this was largely side-lined and forgotten, much to my disappointment. Several characters were introduced specifically for the purposes of the plot against Queen Mary, but it was never fully explored and a great opportunity for added intrigue was missed. On top of this, everything falls into place far too neatly and felt very contrived towards the end.

Overall, I was disappointed and unimpressed – the author could have really pushed himself and written something that sparkled, but I feel he was trying too hard to play it safe and didn’t challenge himself. It’s a pleasant enough read, but nothing to write home about.


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