I have a soft spot for archaeological/historical mysteries and thrillers. The subgenre is extremely glutted with dreck, though, as a result of the huge popularity of The Da Vinci Code. I’m not much of a Da Vinci Code fan, but I’ve liked some of the novels that followed in its wake, so I’m often willing to give this type of book a chance even though I’m seldom satisfied. I ordered Destiny in the hopes that it would be one of the good ones. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
Destiny begins with a prologue set during Joan of Arc’s execution. In the novel, Joan has two men sworn to guard and serve her. They rush to her side at the end but are unable to do anything to save her. Oddly, Alex Archer does a lot of verbal gymnastics in this scene to avoid using Joan’s name. She’s always “the maiden” or similar. I have no idea why he’s being cryptic; don’t we all know who Joan of Arc is? It strikes me as stilted and silly. Anyway, though, Joan dies in the flames, and a dove is seen rising from the pyre, implying that Joan’s soul lives on.
Fast-forwarding to the present, we meet Annja Creed. She’s beautiful, turning heads everywhere she goes. She’s a loner. She’s brilliant but underappreciated. She’s athletic, and a martial arts expert. Oh, and did I mention that she’s almost certainly the reincarnation of Joan? She definitely sets off my Mary Sue radar, and to make things worse, that’s basically her entire characterization. Other prominent characters include Joan’s two champions, who have now found Annja and attached themselves to her. They have a “frenemies” relationship with each other and a banter that I think is supposed to be funny, but since I don’t really like either of the men, it falls flat.
The essential problem here is that I’m a character-driven reader, and Destiny is not a character-driven book. The narrative is focused primarily on action, and obsessed with gadgetry. Halfway through Destiny, I think I know more about how Annja’s GPS locator works than I know about how Annja’s mind works. Even the most fast-paced, combat-stuffed thriller can bore me if I don’t care about the characters.
The best word for the prose is “utilitarian.” It’s competent, and it does the job, but there’s no subtlety or beauty in it.
I’m bored, and I have a to-be-read pile up to here, so I’m giving up on Destiny. I’m not going to say it’s bad — I could see it being great entertainment for a very different kind of reader — but it’s not for me.