The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman

The Thirteen Hallows

There’s a lot of emphasis these days on which books will make good fodder for eventual translation to the big screen.  It’s an interesting quandary—some of the books that I’ve enjoyed the most are ones that just wouldn’t make the transition very well.  I have to wonder if authors are keeping this in mind nowadays, especially now that I’ve read The Thirteen Hallows, a book that begs to be turned into movie magic.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“The Hallows. Ancient artifacts imbued with a primal and deadly power. But are they protectors of this world, or the keys to its destruction?

A gruesome murder in London reveals a sinister plot to uncover a two-thousand-year-old secret.

For decades, the Keepers guarded these Hallows, keeping them safe and hidden and apart from each other. But now the Keepers are being brutally murdered, their prizes stolen, the ancient objects bathed in their blood.

Now, only a few remain.

With her dying breath, one of the Keepers convinces Sarah Miller, a practical stranger, to deliver her Hallow—a broken sword with devastating powers—to her American nephew, Owen.

The duo quickly become suspects in a series of murders as they are chased by both the police and the sadistic Dark Man and his nubile mistress.

As Sarah and Owen search for the surviving Keepers, they unravel the deadly secret the Keepers were charged to protect. The mystery leads Sarah and Owen on a cat-and-mouse chase through England and Wales, and history itself, as they discover that the sword may be the only thing standing between the world… and a horror beyond imagining.”

As I said at the beginning of the review, this novel reads as though someone wrote it with the big screen in mind.  The chapters are often short and sharp, scenes are sometimes broken up into multiple brief bits in order to convey tension, and the writing is heavily weighted towards the visual.  It’s easy for a reader to get the sense of where the story takes place and how the action progresses.  If this novel ever gets made into a movie, the screenwriters will have no trouble translating it to film.

On the other hand, some of the visuals are extremely disturbing.  The Hallows keepers are all old men and women now, none of them having passed off their Hallows to younger people.  When the bad guys catch up with them, the violence is brutal and disturbing.  In fact, I think the violence went way over the top and became gratuitous.  Perhaps the authors were reaching for “edgy”, but I think they just overplayed their hand.  I don’t think that multiple scenes of the elderly being tortured and mutilated were necessary.

I did enjoy the story’s action, although as I said, the violence could have been significantly toned down.  Events are put into motion swiftly and the madcap rush to find the Hallows doesn’t slow down for more than a few pages.  This novel is certainly geared to keep the tension ratcheted up to its highest point.  I also appreciated the way the authors wove in the myths of Joseph of Arimathea and his connection to Britain and its artifacts.  That was actually my favorite part of the whole novel.

I would have liked to have seen a little more development of the characters.  They have a tendency to be slightly two-dimensional, especially the villains.  While I can certainly understand the bad guys being mono-focused on their goals, they should have risen to more than the mustache-twirling level of evil.  Much of the legends of Britain that I’ve read involve complex motivations and more than a few gray areas, and that might have improved the characters to have some of that.  The exception is Sarah, who falls under the influence of one of the Hallows and wrecks some mayhem in the process.  It would have been nice to see a bit further into the minds of the villains as well.

Overall, this isn’t a bad novel, but it also doesn’t have the depth that it could have had.  It’s fast-paced and engaging, and there are times when a book of that caliber is just what you want.  I went through it fairly quickly, which is a mark in its favor—I didn’t put it down in favor of other novels.  The Thirteen Hallows has some flaws, but it rates as a decent read for a weekend afternoon.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 18, 2012.

Series: The Thirteen Hallows
ISBN: 9780765328526
Publisher: Tor
Page Count: 349
Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
Michael Scott’s Website
Colette Freedman’s Website
Read an excerpt