Today’s book review is about a novel from the amazing finnish author Mika Waltari, who I think is a very talented and original writer. If you know me a little, you’ll realize that my favourite genre is historical novels that ally good old history with fictional stories or characters. So my mom recommended that I read some of Mika Waltari’s work lately, I couldn’t find The Egyptian, so I picked this book instead. And let me clarify myself: I hate love stories. I absolutely can’t stand a book where the story is all about a couple and all the ups and downs of their relationship, it’s like I never find a reason to care about their problems. But I started making few exceptions when I read “Love in the time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but the only reason that pushed me to do so was to discover this so-known author and book. Then there’s my sister’s novel “The future in his arms” that I found quite interesting and catching.
It’s not the fact that there’s love involved in a book that annoys me, not at all, i can be the biggest fan girl over some couples and ship so many of them wishing they end up together and make it no matter the odds, but the fact that some authors turn that into the most important thing in the book, the main core of the story, just gets me bored. “The dark angel” is also about an impossible love story, but this one takes place during the forfeiture of Byzantium, and it’s this last part that catches all the attention. The author does give importance to the relationship between Johannes Angelos and Anna Notaras, his greek lover, but never to the point where the reader feels like he’s on a bad teen romance movie. War, politics and history break the lovey-dovey atmosphere of young passion, and this same passion breaks the severity of all what happens in Constantinople at the time.The love story is just an attempt to make the story more human, more realistic. And guess what? I think the result is quite good. We have a protagonist who we don’t know much about, there’s this doubt in our minds about his identity until the very last chapters. Some people accuse him of being a spy for the Ottoman Sultan Mohammed II, others think he’s the deposed prince: and all we can do is build our own theories, switching from liking him, to being suspicious of his acts. I really recommend you to check out this novel, there’s all the good elements to make a very genuine and interesting story: love, passion, honor, power, duty, war, history, betrayal, a great empire, and an even bigger one going through a decline…
“And what will be their fate?” he asked. “Forgive me master, but I am curious to know, so that my heart may prepare itself.”
“Flesh without spirit,” I said. “Life without hope, the slavery of mankind-a bondage so hopeless that slaves will no longer know they are slaves. Wealth without happiness, abundance without the power to enjoy it. The death of the spirit.”
_Mika Waltari, The Dark Angel