Review: Fivefold by Nathan Burrage

fivefold.jpg Nathan Burrage
Bantam, 475 pp.
Source: review copy
Review by Perry Middlemiss
Soon after I first started reading this novel I frankly didn't hold out a lot of hope for it. The cover and blurb ("What if we got it wrong? What if the first five chapters of the Bible weren't about good and evil at all? What if they contained a hidden meaning, evidence of a divine grand plan?") led me to think this was going to be some sort of Da Vinci Code rip-off; replete with mystical symbols and the hand of God leaving her fingerprints all over the place. Added to that, after an interesting prologue, the next 50 or so pages jump around all over the place following one character for a few pages before changing to another. Allowing the reader little time to settle in. There seemed little to connect any of it to a single story-line. I found it a bit of a struggle. But I have this 60 page rule whereby every novel should be given an hour to find its feet, to captivate the reader and provide a reason to believe the author knows what he (in this case)
knows what he is doing. I'm glad I did.

The novel starts with a prologue set in Yorkshire in 1308. An isolated monastery is threatened by bandits who are intent on stealing some treasure held there. In order to ensure that the object doesn't fall into enemy hands the abbot poisons the other monks, burns down the church and is executed by "friendly" knights sworn to protect him. This is a good start. Sudden and unexpected death always is. The novel then jumps to the present day as we are gradually introduced to five main characters, mid- to late-twenties, living in London, mainly professonals and all with individual characteristics which will have a major bearing on the plot. Somehow these five are connected in some way, and, equally, something seems to be drawing them towards a certain place in Yorkshire - the same place that was destroyed by fire some seven hundred years previously.

Burrage handles this development of the plot very well, though you have to stick with it. The stands do come together and when the true nature of their calling is revealed, and their struggle for survival begins, the reader finds themselves on a fictional ride that maintains the tension and keeps them guessing to the end. As I read this novel I was reminded of two very different artistic items: the film Raiders of the Lost Ark and the novel Black Easter by James Blish. This novel is something of a cross between the two: mixing some of the adventure of the Spielberg/Lucas film with the arcane demonology of Blish's book.

Does it work? In the main, yes. There are times when the requirement for massive "info dumps" slows the pace of the book. But Burrage doesn't belabour the technique, moving on just as you feel he's stayed too long. There is a lot of talent at work here.

This is the author's first novel, and, on this evidence, he's going to be one to watch.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 26, 2008 9:48 PM.

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