The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings” shares his thoughts on The String Diaries, published by Headline Books.
“An awesome, engaging and unputdownable novel with a wealth of content and mystery to explore. Highly Recommended.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
The String Diaries arrived unannounced along with Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford and was something that immediately piqued my interest. I love a good thriller novel, and endeavoured to make it my next read after I’d finished with Ford’s fantastic grimdark fantasy. As it turns out, the book itself is more of a horror than a thriller from the likes of James Patterson, Dan Brown etc – but it blends both genres, as well as urban fantasy – together in order to create a great, atmospheric book that you won’t be able to stop reading.
A jumble of entries, written in different hands, different languages, and different times. They tell of a rumour. A shadow. A killer.
The only interest that Oxford Professor Charles Meredith has in the diaries is as a record of Hungarian folklore … until he comes face to face with a myth.
For Hannah Wilde, the diaries are a survival guide that taught her the three rules she lives by: verify everyone, trust no one, and if in any doubt, run.
But Hannah knows that if her daughter is ever going to be safe, she will have to stop running and face the terror that has hunted her family for five generations.
And nothing in the diaries can prepare her for that.
I’ve seen nothing but good praise for The String Diaries so far, and the book in question certainly lives up to the feedback. It’s strong and a solid read, standing comfortably as a solo novel (I don’t know whether it’s part of a series – but it doesn’t look like it), and its prose is so well written that you won’t know that this is Jones’ first outing as an author. The book itself deals with an interesting matter of secret societies – something that always draws my interest, in fact – I’m even writing a WIP novel with two warring secret societies at the moment, and I was very much intrigued when The Stirng Diaries explored the societies that exist without our knowledge, and handles it a lot, lot better than the appalling Dan Brown-written The Lost Symbol.
The book itself is divided between multiple timelines. It focuses on the past, where our narrator is Professor Charles Meredith, and the present – where it divides its attention between the main antagonist known as Jakab and Hannah Wilde, who acts as a very strong female lead for the book. The characters are crafted well, entirely three dimensional – but that doesn’t stop me from hating Jakab – believing that his actions are justified – and his ruthlessness behaviour really puts the reader firmly in the camp of Hannah and Charles, even if the two previous characters don’t actually meet at any point in the entire novel.
When dealing with multiple timelines, as mentioned earlier – there’s always a risk of that the book can become too complicated, focus on one setting moreso than the other, and fall into the trap of making the reader want to read about one of the settings and finding the other ones less interesting. I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case here – and whilst the time periods could be read on their own, each separate from the other – it’s a great achievement by Jones that he manages to get them all to just fit together so well that you won’t want to skip anything, with each setting you’ll find yourself uncovering more of the three principal characters – be they Charles, Hannah or Jakab.
The book itself is a rare urban fantasy novel, with several elements of horror and thriller as mentioned earlier – that doesn’t involve the use of any obvious supernatural creatures like werewolves, dragons or vampires. The book itself is complex, bold – and successfully put together in a way that you’ll find yourself unable to put the book down as you keep moving forward, searching for answers.
Therefore, in conclusion – The String Diaries is an awesome book. Once you get started, you won’t be able to stop – it’s engaging, and a confident tale with an original twist on the urban fantasy setting. As mentioned earlier – it’s highly recommended, with barely any issues being had with the book in question.