Bill Napier’s Splintered Icon is a book ripe with promise but fails to deliver. Certainly the idea central to the story evokes comparisons to the Da Vinci Code. The thriller plot, the historical intrigue and mysteries layered throughout, all promise the reader a good read. The discovery of a four-hundred-year-old journal written in one of the many secret languages that prevailed during the tumultuous Elizabethan times is the catalyst for a story that leads the reader back into the time of the Crusades to a prized holy relic, propels him forward into a mystery of an early American colony that still persists today, and finally catapults him into the potential headline stories of today’s terrorist world. In many ways the novel contains all the elements necessary to vault a book into today’s bestseller status.
So what happened? In essence, that needed connection between the reader and the main character is never allowed to happen. Despite an almost clinical feel to the narration, the story opens with a high tension moment, one that would probably work in a movie because the camera would reveal subtle shifts in facial expressions and minute gestures that would force the viewer to hone in on that particular person and establish some sympathy. But in this short opening scene the author fails to make us care. The main character is not involved and the chapter reads more like a prologue. While the opening is designed to start the story with a bang, any real and weighted connection that would then propel the drama forward is lacking.
The novel is also told along two timelines in alternating chapters. When this technique works it makes for a great read; however, the demands of maintaining the reader’s bond with two vastly different storylines, timelines and characters requires the author to be even more cognizant of the reader’s journey in order to ensure that the reader’s passage back and forth is smooth and enjoyable. These jarring transitions never allowed me to maintain a link with either the characters in today’s plot or the narrator of the journal—and I wanted to. While the author did use alternating point of views and writing styles, the transitions remained choppy and abrupt. Had the text shown some change in type or had a header been used to cue the shift in time, then perhaps the read would have been more successful. Instead, this only added to my inability to connect with the characters.
The best passages in the novel were those taken from the mysterious journal of James Ogilvie. I confess, I did finally bond with young James—but not until around page 200. This is far too late in the game for me to consider the book to be successful. In the end, although I picked the novel up with great anticipation I put it down with greater disappointment. But I am just one reader. If you love intrigue, appreciate history, and enjoy a good thriller, perhaps all the elements will come together for you in a satisfying way.