The Azimuth Trilogy (New review – 2)

Azimuth may well be intimidating to some, such is the considerable heft of the trilogy, though this may be one advantage of reading them separately, or on a Kindle, where you get all the joy of the text, without the workout of holding up the book.
Once opened it is a joy.
The first thing to note is the ambitious structure, a story within a story, twin plots running simultaneously, separate but with certain parallels, generously spelt out, in case you were in danger of missing them, by Kamil. For me it works unusually well. I often find stories composed this way lack symmetry, leaving the reader (or viewer) interested in one story disproportionately relative to the other, and impatient when faced with the “lesser” story. Azimuth finds an admirable balance. The longer, perhaps senior, story-within-the-story, is captivating and will linger in my memory, I suspect, for a long time. The circumstances surrounding the reading of that story serve as book-ends either side of each chapter, and are themselves engaging and worthwhile.
The pace is pleasing, and the prose beautiful and evocative. The characters have real depth and it is interesting that so many of the strongest characters in the book are female. Extraordinary attention to detail makes it a very visual book, with descriptions of clothes and scenery putting you in a world that is magical, mystical, beautiful – but not excessively fantastical. Many reviews compare it to The Lord Of The Rings, an obvious and understandable comparison, not least because it is a trilogy. But for me it is also a misleading one. This is not a world of ogres, elves and goblins. In the first book, particularly, the book I was reminded of most was Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, a similar blend of journeying, fictionalised history and religious philosophy – and of course with similar references to The Magus.

That feels like the crux of the book, a biography of a fictional character, the imagined father of atheism – or humanism. The evolution of his Right Path feels like the genesis of a great religion, making The Magus akin to Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha. It sounds heavy, but there is enough travel and adventure to lighten the mood.


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