Monday, 3 December 2007
‘Beowulf’ – Caitlin R. Kiernan (Bantam Books)
Although Angelina Jolie is looking as nice as ever, the trailer for ‘Beowulf’ didn’t really inspire me to go and see the film. The fact that it’s being touted as being ‘amazing in 3D’ made me wonder if it was so bad that it needed the 3D thing as a gimmick to pull the crowds in. I’ve just finished reading Caitlin Kiernan’s ‘book of the film’ and I think I may have had my mind changed for me. The wife is away on a course, next week, and I might just go to the cinema and see this on the big screen…
I never read ‘Beowulf’ as a kid, although I was probably meant to for English A-Level, but it’s one of those tales where everyone knows the story. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Beowulf? Ok, here’s the potted version. Monster hates noisy neighbours, eats most of them, Beowulf turns up with his men (kinda like the A-Team) and takes care of business. At least that’s what he thinks…
Having been driven to distraction by anti-social neighbours, in the past, I was rooting for Grendel (the monster) right from the start. Unfortunately for me, Caitlin Kiernan decided to stay true to the story, which was to be expected I guess! And what a story it was. This isn’t a book that will have you thinking about it long after you have finished; it’s a book that will grab you by the throat and then throw swordfights, monsters and fair maidens at you all in one big rush. There is always something happening and some of the ‘fight set pieces’ had me holding my breath (even though I knew how it had to end). As a result ‘Beowulf’ is certainly an entertaining read and a review copy that will find a permanent place on my bookshelf.
‘Beowulf’ isn’t just a hack n’ slash tale though, Kiernan has done her research and delivers a tale that does the tricky job of grounding the reader in a defined historical period while, at the same time, placing said reader firmly in a age of myth and legend.
I’d never come across Kiernan’s work before now but apparently she’s a well known author of ‘Dark Fantasy’ and this shows in her descriptions of bleak moorland, crashing surf on deserted coastline and dank tunnels. Her characters are pretty much spot on as well, walking a fine line between being the heroes of ‘Asgard’ and people that twenty first century readers can identify with. I say ‘pretty much’ spot on as certain twenty first century colloquialisms creep in at strange moments and interrupt the flow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Viking (in a book) say “Damn straight”…
Chris (of the ‘Book Swede’ fame) has also Reviewed ‘Beowulf’ and mentioned a perceived anti-Christian sentiment. I didn’t see any of that but what I did see was quite a thoughtful portrayal of a culture slowly being superceded by a new religion.
‘Beowulf’ (the book) probably won’t win any awards in the genre but is a fast paced, action packed book that won’t fail to entertain.
Eight out of Ten