So I'm finally getting into the meat of Beneath the Vaulted Hills, and the story is getting really good. But my GOD is it slow reading! It's not hard, but the font is weird and the sentences are strangely hypnotic, so it becomes hard to jump ahead. Honestly, the action is pretty good, so I kind of wish it was in a more streamlined book.
The book began about six times. Each of the first six chapters felt like the first chapter of a book, introduced a new character (in medias res, of course), and ended on a tense note. I was 50 pages in and had barely begun.
And there are so many characters. Starting from a random point in the plot: Bryce is a mysterious figure who provides information to Sir John, allowing him to foster an antagonism between Moncrief (and his ally the Sea Lord) and Lord Skye, who employs two young men in a research capacity, Hayes and Kehler. (Deep breath, and--) Hayes is in trouble, and is being aided by his friend Erasmus, who is being dogged by Deacon Rose (who's looking for Kehler), aided by Randall, and wooed by the Countess of Chilton, who was hung up on Lord Skye and is advised by her friend Marianne and pursued by an artist named Kent. All these are only the living characters, and only some of them. Let's not talk about the priest Baumgere, the mysterious Teller, the child Percy, the painter Pelier. Let's not talk about the mage who is the focus of the book.
And that's the thing--the conflict they're all tangled up in (which isn't really a MacGuffin, but isn't really coming together) doesn't quite make sense to me. So the mages want to get rid of all magical knowledge, but there are folks who don't want them to be able to, and the church which has some unclear third position on the subject. Also there are people who can do magic but aren't mages. So what is a mage? It's all a little fuzzy.
But mostly it's a spelunking novel. And if you ever saw the movie The Descent, and thought it was much scarier before the creepy cave people appeared, then you'll see what I'm liking about this book.
Brenda, I really want your opinion, when I'm done.