(major spoilers below)
Light Bringer is a bit of a course correction after the Iron Gold and Dark Age flops. Quicksilver and The Figment were ditched. Sevro was quickly freed from imprisonment (without any brainwashing). The Abomination was barely mentioned. Volsung Fá and the Ascomani turned out to be frauds and not real threats (Darrow defeated them in a day without an army). The story went back to Darrow and his friends against the baddies, and that is a good thing.
Lysander doesn’t work as a character. Brown wants to tell a villain origin story from the villain’s POV, but the villain is an emotionless, vanilla character who never garners an iota of reader sympathy. Lysander is boring and his many betrayals are predictable.
It was obvious from the get-go this would be Cassius’ redemption story. He rekindles his bromance with Darrow. He bonds with lowColors. He makes amends with Sevro. His beauty and fighting skills are brought up ad nauseam. So it’s unsurprising when his death comes, as his arc was wrapped up nicely.
The obviousness of Cassius’ death could be forgiven if he didn’t die for such a stupid reason. Lysander has shown us who he is over and over again. There are no redeemable qualities. Only a fool would trust him. Cassius being that fool takes away from the emotional impact of his death. There were attempted explanations for this — Cassius was Lysander’s mentor and saw him as a sort of replacement for his late brother Julian. It’s just not enough of a justification to forgive Cassius’ stupidity.
Overall, the book was only OK. It’s still riding the coattails of the original trilogy. That’s fine with me. The more Darrow and Sevro content I get, the happier I’ll be.
(major spoilers ahead)
The mystery is set up as if it’s a whodunit — island cut off from the mainland at the time of the murder with finite suspects. But really only one suspect ever makes sense. The crimes are sexual in nature and perpetrated towards women, so the suspect can only be a man. There is only one male suspect of an age or physicality capable of pulling off the crimes.
The book goes way too hard on the shock and torture porn. Making the killer a serial rapist, murderer, and animal abuser with his own torture chamber almost pushes the novel into parody territory. It undermines the statement the book wants to make about the reality of violence towards women in Sweden.
The novel is a middle-aged man’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. Let’s look at Mikael Blomqvist’s life by the end of the book:
- He has an ongoing, no-strings-attached sexual relationship with his best friend.
- He has a summer fling with a schoolteacher.
- He has a third sexual relationship with a young, badass, punk-rock hacker chick.
- He is an expert sailor.
- He owns an expensive flat in Stockholm and a custom-designed vacation cabin in the woods.
- He solves a decades-old murder mystery, then gets to play savior to a wealthy family by not ratting them out.
- He is the CEO of a counterculture investigative magazine with a wealthy and benevolent benefactor.
- He is considered a martyr for journalistic ethics.
- He uncovers Sweden’s financial crime conspiracy of the century.
- He is a best-selling author and media darling.
- He is father to a mature, self-reliant teenage daughter who loves and worships him despite his abandonment of her.
Despite all of the book’s flaws, I still found it riveting and enjoyed my time reading it. I think I’m going to avoid the sequels, at least for now.
Horowitz has quite the résumé. He wrote for Poirot, created two successful TV shows (Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders), was selected by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate to write two Sherlock Holmes novels, was selected by the Ian Fleming estate to write three James Bond novels, and wrote a bestselling teen spy series (Alex Rider).
The problem with doing the story within a story is that the reader will prefer one story to the other.
I guessed the Ryeland mystery correctly. I did not figure out the Pünd mystery, but I thought it worked wonderfully.
Pünd comes across as an imitation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot with none of the charm or personality. I imagine this was intentionally done considering the picture Horowitz paints of Alan Conway.
Despite Ryeland’s disapproval of Conway’s use of anagrams and Easter eggs, I quite enjoyed them (outside of the distasteful origin of Pünd’s name, but again, that’s the point). I don’t think they “cheapen the writing” at all. The more little puzzles, the better. It only becomes a problem when Easter eggs and references are employed in lieu of a good story (cough Disney cough).
Horowitz’s ability to write a classic whodunit reminiscent of the Golden Age of murder mysteries and a modern mystery crime thriller all in the same book is very impressive. I prefer the puzzle-solving of a classic whodunit to the theatrics of a modern thriller.
This show is going to inspire a generation of chefs.
How often do cooks get trapped in walk-ins? Television leads me to believe it happens all the time. If a walk-in appears in a show, you can guarantee someone will get stuck in there at some point.
The character of Sydney gets a lot of hate, some deserved and some not. If you try to mention the flaws in the Sydney character, people will point out Richie and Carm’s flaws and ask why you aren’t talking about them. The difference is that when Richie and Carm are being shitty (which is often) we are told they are being shitty by other characters. Their shittiness is constantly reinforced by the consequences they face for their actions. That’s not the case when Sydney is being shitty. When Sydney literally stabbed her coworker, she suffered zero consequences. The incident is even referred to in the passive voice. It’s not “Sydney stabbed Richie,” but Richie “was stabbed.” As if Sydney had nothing to do with it.
The show has a little bit of a Ted Lasso problem. Everyone loves each other and they’re all best friends. Characters can be jerks, but you know they will eventually realize they’re being jerks, apologize, and kiss and make up with the other characters. Sometimes you just don’t like people, and they don’t like you. Especially coworkers.
Character arcs are too sudden and linear. Richie and Tina go from rude and disrespectful to kind and wise seemingly overnight. It’s heartwarming but abrupt.
If this show was made 15 years ago, Claire would be played by Zooey Deschanel.
The “Fishes” episode is a masterpiece and nails the dysfunctional family Christmas gathering dynamic.
The first 45 seconds of “New Noise” is my new hype song.
The number of times “yes, chef,” “behind,” and “corner” have been uttered in home kitchens across the United States has gone up 10000% since this show started airing.