I have become completely addicted to Dan Brown novels, I admit it. I just finished reading “Inferno”, the latest in the Robert Langdon series and am as happy with it as I was at the beginning of the series with Angels & Demons. “Inferno” earns a full five star rating from me. It’s another definite winner!
The main character, Robert Langdon, finds himself thrown into the middle of a confusing and deadly situation with no idea what happened to him or how he got there. Within minutes of waking up in a hospital in Florence he realizes he’s in a fight for his life, running to stay just a step ahead of those who pursue him and want him dead. Not knowing who he can trust he relies on one woman for help…and the scavenger hunt to piece things together begins!
This particular book hits the ground running! There’s absolutely no waiting for the action to begin and it is unceasing throughout the book. I loved the frantic, confused, and desperate energy to this particular story and as usual Brown adds his trademark of nicely marrying factual tidbits within the historical scavenger hunt. I always eagerly devour these tidbits he throws in, the ancient art and history buff in me just can’t get enough of it. Brown has a real knack for introducing the reader to these factoids without it feeling like a ponderous history lesson. He truly brings the gift of visualization along with it so you see what he’s talking about not merely accept it. I believe this is perhaps the biggest factor in my Brown addiction.
I have noticed when going over other reviews that some complained about the repetitive description of back story regarding Robert Langdon. I’d like to address that just a bit. I believe many people often feel books within a series shouldn’t have the writer describing the main character in each book. Some seem to feel that they shouldn’t have to do this but sometimes they do. Robert Langdon has a favorite tweed jacket he likes to wear; it’s often mentioned in the books because it means something to him. He experienced a life-changing traumatic event as a child that is usually mentioned but it has to do with a situation he finds himself in; or Brown will often talk about Langdon’s profession and areas of specific authority as it applies to the plot. Some people seem to view this unfavorably, I view this as necessary. This particular series isn’t set up to be read sequentially, a reader may pick any book in the series and read it completely independently of the others. Naturally, if you pick up “Angels & Demons” first you get all the background information you could possibly need about Robert Langdon from the beginning of the series but if you happen to read “The Symbol” first, you need that information, it’s integral to his character. I have never found that information to be distracting to the story as some have.
I mentioned previously that this story is fast-paced, it definitely is. Brown takes you on a whirlwind tour of Italy’s Florence and Venice and a brief one of Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet Square as Langdon and his companion(s) work to solve a puzzle and save all of humanity from disaster. True to Brown’s style there are twists and turns along the way, he really enjoys throwing the reader a good curve-ball. Honestly, I found the biggest one a little bit predictable but I’m someone whose mind will work to unravel these things as I read anyway. I find it to be a personal challenge of sorts so that never spoils the story for me unless it’s blatantly obvious. This twist is definitely not blatantly obvious many may never see it coming. Brown is a master at weaving a really good story while keeping the drama high.
I also really appreciate the time and attention Brown puts into researching his stories and incorporating his research into his historical symbology scavenger hunts. You can bet money that if he brings up a unique feature of a building, it’s there. If he talks about the Grand Canal just outside of the Santa Lucia train station in Venice, that’s exactly what it’s like! He takes you there and you never have to spend the money. My particular favorite was the Basilica Cistern. He perfectly captured the interior, how it echoes, the inky blackness of it, the smell, and the unique columns…Medusa. To be truthful, I was a fan of his to begin with but after having walked basically the same steps as Robert Langdon during our family vacation last summer (Rome, Florence, Venice, Istanbul) I now have a whole new appreciation for the gift of description that Brown has and his attention to detail.
If you have never read a Robert Langdon novel, you can pick this up as your first as easily as you could Angels & Demons. This is a series I would highly recommend to anyone! Oh, and speaking as a parent, this is one you can let your kids read too if they are interested. I wouldn’t hesitate to let my 12 year old read it. The Robert Langdon series, in my view, is appropriate for just about everyone.
I would love to hear the thoughts of anyone else who has read it too!