Secondly, this is a novel. Ms Asensi never said otherwise all along all the books. So, don't expect to find any true truth here... being a fictional story, the author took all the liberties she needed to make her story better.
Unfortunately, as any good book with a good writer behind, this isn't an easy story and it's required that the reader has at least a light knowledge of the historical background the author refers to. Otherwise, you'll find difficult to understand and quite boring in some passages.
The main characters is a nun, Dr. Ottavia Salina. And she's not a common nun, she's paleographer, with a doctorate both in paleography and art history... and she is the Director of the Vatican's Classified Archives.
So, it's not strange that some day she was asked to examine some tattoos -or, better, some scarifications- found on a men dead in a plane crash, whom was involved in the smuggle of priceless artifacts.
What instead was strange was that Dr Salina had to work with Captain Kaspar Glauser-Roist, a member of the Swiss Guard (with some sinister affiliations I won't spoiler you) , and with Professor Farag Boswell, an atheist archaeologist with a Coptic Christian background.
Of course, during the investigations, they started to be involved with a secret society (well, this is quite a cliché nowadays), whose secrets are hiddend between the lines of Dante Alighieri's Commedia - see why I absolutely love this book?. Obviously, this society and its leader, called 'Cato*' (from here, the title of the book), did whatever they could to stop our characters during their personal quest, going near to kill them multiple times.
What annoys me a bit was how Ms Asensi look for some romance to put in a story that shouldn't have any; I'm not disturbed by it as per se, but because it seemed a bit calculated to be believable, like she hadto put it so more people would like her book.
But, you know, in a story about religion and its mysteries, romance (and especially this kind of romance) is a bit out of place... but, since this wasn't the most important theme of the book, you can always pretend it doesn't exist, especially because you figure it out from the very first page and so you can simply ignore it.
Another bad spot is her character's characterization: she goes too easily with some stereotypes and focus too much on historical/architectural/philosophical/whatever detail instead of her characters, so tehy suffered a bit with the lack of attention. Not they aren't well portrayed, but I still think she could have done a far better job, especially because she created something quite itneresting that would have given her a lot of narrative possibilities.
Besides that, I LOVED how much architecture was described here. The characters move up and down Italy and through Europe and Ms Asens describe every place so well that you can almost picture it in front of you (and I'm pretty sure she did a good job, because I was in some of those places and they actually are as she said!). I hope the shades of her descriptions didn't get lost in the English translation, because it would be really said (luckily, she's Spanish, so the Italian translator couldn't possibly ruin it)..
So, what makes this book quite good are the descriptions and the settings. Ms Asens is an European, a Spanish woman, and you can see it: she describes something true, she hints at power balances and contrast that only someone that lives here can understand. Something that people like Mr Brown won't ever be able to do, not only because he lacks of the right premises to be a good writer (research before writing idiocies!), but because he lives in a country completely different from ours.
And I'm definitely going to buy and read even 'Iacobus' and 'The lost origin', so expect to hear about her very soon!...Continua