The Unicorn Road by Martin Davies, Review: Artful history
The Unicorn Road Synopsis
An old Englishman sits by a harbour in Spain, hoping each day to hear what might have happened to the son he last saw as a child, many years before. He cannot die in peace until he knows.
Dominic was sent to the royal court of Sicily, as page to the great scholar Antioch, and travelled with him on an expedition to the East, from which they never returned. Gradually, through meetings with travellers, the old man puts together most of the story and now the narrative of the expedition alternates with his own.
The mission to the East is shrouded in secret motives and mysterious encounters. The boy is befriended by the party’s interpreter, Venn, and embroiled in an exotic, dangerous adventure involving lost Cathar treasure, capture by the unimaginably cruel Emperor of China and a plan to bring the Mongol hordes of the Great Khan west to destroy the culture of Christendom. And at the heart of the web of politics and deceit, Venn falls in love with a woman whose sad story he has deciphered from the secret women’s language which really existed in China for hundreds of years.
As magically evocative as an ancient silk painting, this is a novel of the medieval world that illuminates our own.
Genre: Drama, Historical, Literature, Romance
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Beautiful from cover to composition. This cover art was what originally attracted me to The Unicorn Road as it sat on my bookstore bargain shelf, but when I began reading I was pleasantly surprised to find the writing style inside the book just as artful.
Davies sets the scene like a painter, telling this grand and sweeping tale of quest and adventure to foreign lands in language so beautiful and luxurious that the reader cannot help be enthralled and engrossed. The characters have compelling backstories that are uncovered slowly throughout the novel, revealing the admirable qualities of courage, honour and loyalty.
Although The Unicorn Road is a work of fiction, actual historical events relating to the Silk Route and the Christian Crusades provide the framework for the plot. Despite the stories being set in different time periods, I found myself thinking of the movie Troy and its grandeur on more than one occasion.
Although the story is an epic one, only segments are told in detail, leaving the book only 324 pages in length. Davies manages to quickly wrap up all the loose ends to conclude the story, drawing on seeds of information cleverly planted along the journey (almost too perfectly).
Despite the quick ending, I found the book a satisfying one that I’d recommend if for nothing else but for the beauty and artfulness of the writing.\
BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5 – Overall 3.75
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More sweeping historical fiction:
The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander / Fortune by Lenny Bartulin / Seduction by M J Rose / The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth / All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky
About the Author, Martin Davies
Martin Davies grew up in North West England. He has travelled widely, including in the Middle East and India, and his plan for his debut novel The Conjuror’s Bird was put together on a trekking holiday in Greenland. He has since published seven more novels. He lives in South West London and works as a producer for an international media company.