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The Scrivener's Tale by Fiona McIntosh
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The Scrivener's Tale

by Fiona McIntosh

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I read this as a standalone fantasy, having not read anything else by this author. I was rather put off by the author's tendency to rely on massive information dumps: more than once a character is not long introduced before we get a complete retrospective biography, typically framed as some sort of reminiscence, and containing hugely more than the reader needs to know. Tolkien might have got away with the massive introduction to 'The Lord of the Rings', but he couldn't have got away with dumping half the content of the appendices into a soliloquy by Aragorn! Writing a sequel (or a later book in a series) in such a way that it can be read both by those who know the earlier work and those who don't is a tricky business, and many authors do not manage it elegantly enough.

The book also suffers (to my mind) from two other common problems of modern fantasy: (a) much of the time the characters speak to each other as social and intellectual equals despite living in a structured and hierarchical society; (b) there is an exaggerated concern with the mechanics of a magic which rather resembles technology in its internal logic. Eventually I did find the plot interesting enough to keep turning the pages in order to find out what happens.

MB 31-x-2016 ( )
  MyopicBookworm | Oct 31, 2016 |
This was a great read. An epic, action-packed fantasy, "The Scrivener's Tale" had me hooked from the first page. I enjoyed the characters, especially Cassien, Florentyna, Fynch and Hamelyn. Bound together to fight evil they were all strong, fascinating characters. Gabe was more of a background character, but it was fascinating to follow their lives until they reached their destinies. It was also nice that this was a stand-alone book so I don't have to wait for a year or more for the final resolution to be reached. Thoroughly entertaining! ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jan 23, 2016 |
I admit, I was extremely hopeful picking up The Scrivener's Tale by Fiona McIntosh. After a series of historical and contemporary novels I was more than ready to dive into a fantasy world, and the idea of a single volume, set in a world that was already created, appealed to me. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to fully discover that world... but that fear was not the one I should have been concerned about.

The good was that McIntosh knows her fantasy world, Morgravia, very very well. I was able to get a feel for that world quickly - in fact more quickly then I do for other series that take their time introducing their own worlds. I found the good characters (especially Cassien) to be sympathetic, the bad ones to be teeth-gnashingly evil, and the story (overall) to be acceptable. However... and there is an however, the Paris section stuck out like a sore thumb.

I understand the appeal - starting a story like this off in our world and wanting a successful cross-over, but it just didn't work for me here. There was not enough explanation of how it all came about, where the connection was, where certain characters went (after they supposedly perished), etc. It seemed left open-ended and unfinished and it really messed with my enjoyment of the story. Better to have just stuck in Morgravia and worked the story there than incorporate Paris in because, frankly, that incorporation demands more page space than a single volume will allow.

Still, the last half of the book was good fun. There were predictable moments and the battle scenes were a bit lacking, but the romance of the story swept me up and The Scrivener's Tale became unputdownable for the last 150 pages or so. ( )
  TheLostEntwife | Jan 6, 2013 |
Reader's familiar with Fiona McIntosh's popular fantasy trilogy The Quickening will be thrilled with her latest release, a stand alone novel that is set in the same imaginative landscape. Though best known for her fantasy series I have only read McIntosh's stand alone historical fiction novel The Lavender Keeper and recently purchased the first two books of her crime fiction series. I am pleased I took a chance on The Scrivener's Tale as I found it to be a fabulous read. Moving from Paris, France, to the kingdom of Morgravia, The Scrivener's Tale is an extraordinary, epic fantasy adventure that involves a bitter curse, a vengeful demon and a magical prophecy.

In present day Paris, Gabriel is persuaded to assess the mental health of a young woman, Angelina, despite having abandoned his successful psychology practice some time ago. Though initially reluctant to become involved, Gabe finds himself intrigued by Angelina's delusions particularly when she reveals an odd connection to his own dreams.
In the Kingdom of Morgravia, Fynch senses the approach of a great evil that threatens the Wild and puts his long term strategy to protect the land into action. As Gabriel is pulled into the magical realm, Cassien, a warrior of great mental and physical strength, is dispatched to protect Queen Florentyna, soon joined by Hamelyn, a young orphan. Together the three unwittingly form a triad of power, destined to defeat the demon, Cyricus and save the land.

Though the story begins in our modern day real world, where Gabriel works as a bookstore clerk in Paris, it swiftly moves into Morgravia with all the elements of an epic fantasy including a daring quest, magic and a final battle between good and evil. Morgravia is a medieval society, reigned by royalty, neighbored by the kingdoms of Briavel and The Razors. Magic still lingers, tolerated but rarely acknowledged. The land will be familiar to reader's of Myrren's Gift though The Scrivener's Tale is set several generations after the events of The Quickening series and the novel is a stand alone.

Fynch is the enigmatic guardian in The Scrivener's Tale, charged with ensuring the demon, Cyricus, is unsuccessful in his plan to destroy the land. His manipulation of events has been centuries in the making, sometimes raising questions about if he is to be trusted.
I found myself drawn to Cassien's character more than Gabriel's, perhaps because Cassien as the warrior is the more active hero of the story. I would have liked to get to know Hamelyn a little more as I felt his his extraordinary gifts are never quite fully realised.
The royal Morgravian family has it's own intrigues, a poisonous step mother, a spiteful, envious princess and a young queen desperate to lead. I really liked Florentyna who is a strong, intelligent Queen, despite her vulnerabilities.
As a demon, Cyricus is of course utterly irredeemable as is his acolyte, Aphra. After escaping the void he was trapped in eons ago after trespassing upon the Wild, Cyricus seeks vengeance for his exile, possessing the bodies of those that advance his cause. His goal is to take Queen Florentyna's role and then order the destruction of the Wild while pitting kingdom against kingdom for his own amusement.

While The Scrivener's Tale is quite a lengthy tome at 500 pages, McIntosh sustains the adventure and intrigue through out. The novel moves at a good pace, weaving together the destinies of Gabriel, Cassian and Hamelyn, leading to a final pitched battle between good and evil.

The Scrivener's Tale is an entertaining fantasy novel which I really enjoyed, so much so in fact that I wish I could expect a sequel. Instead, I will be sure to seek out some of the author's earlier fantasy series. ( )
  shelleyraec | Dec 18, 2012 |
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"In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant...until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems...When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia."--Publisher's website.… (more)

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