Thursday, February 10, 2005

The only thing I don't like about reading a really good, captivating book (a Thumping Good Read, as dubbed by The Common Reader) is the feeling of loss once it's finished. No other book can fill the void, and I flit from tome to tome in the vain hopes of finding something to sweep me utterly away again. And then, very occasionally, I'm lucky enough to light upon an unexpected book that does just that.

Though I've read Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion several times, in my opinion it ranks among the best fantasy--even the best fiction--ever written, and each reading only makes me lov eit more. Moon's prose is simple yet captivating, and the story a riveting one, with a nearly perfect heroine. With every reading my admiration of Paks grows--she possesses the quality of doing and saying, always, what she believes to be right, without being influenced by anyone else. Reading of her steady, quiet, honest journey from sheepfarmer's daughter to paladin chokes me up, and the many trials that she endures only serve to make her stronger. She is not particularly intelligent or good or brave in herself, but her strength of will and faith are astounding.

This may, in some poor fashion, serve to illustrate my condition after reading the last page of this trilogy a week or so ago. I cast about for something, anything, to content me again, and happened to alight upon a recently acquired novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I'd read his The Club Dumas on Odious' recommendation, and enjoyed it greatly until the unfortunately disappointing ending (he built it up way too much, and there was no way it could ever conclude satisfactorily). When I saw The Flanders Panel in a used bookstore, I was willing to give him another chance, and am quite glad I did.

The heroine is a young art restorer named Julia, who has been given a little-known yet valuable Flemish painting to restore its original condition so that it can be sold. During the process, however, she uncovers (literally!) an intriguing secret that purports to solve an ancient mystery. But it soon becomes clear that danger lurks in the present as well as in the past, when an old lover of Julia's is found dead. With the help of a taciturn chessmaster and an art dealer, Julia solves each puzzle as it is presented until mysteries both historical and contemporary are concluded. This book is satisfactory, and beyond doubt a TGR.

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