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Friday, July 16, 2010

"The Labyrinth" by Dorian Zari (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Dorian Zari Website
Read a "book-like" excerpt from The Labyrinth or a longer one HERE
Order "The Labyrinth" HERE

INTRODUCTION: "The term of soul mate is about to be redefined as four complete strangers struggle to find each other despite their monstrous pursuer who calls himself the Guardian. Their journey unravels their own past, the startling reality about the Guardian's true nature, but even more - humankind's true origin and purpose"

When some months ago, I received a review query from a young Romanian author who was debuting in English (!) and with a book that had the very interesting premise above, I was quite intrigued so I checked an excerpt and decided to give it a try and I am very glad I did so since The Labyrinth turned out to be a winner.

I would like to note that the review query I have received was the first time I have encountered Dorian Zari's name, though I agree that the fact that we share the same birth country attracted my attention even before I checked the book. I also urge you to check his wonderful biographical note on the website linked above.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "The Labyrinth" stands at about 320 pages divided into 45 numbered chapters and with a short epilogue. There are four main POV's which are introduced separately though it becomes evident quite early that they are related somehow.

Sarah is a very talented deaf pianist whose music sense is very exquisite despite her disability. Carly is a beautiful stripper with an unusual sense of smell.

Zack is a rich ne'er-do-well who has a problem with food. His taste sense is too developed so on eating he usually tastes the ingredients rather than the result, so in consequence he eats only the blandest food possible.

Dan is a blind man who actually can see events in far away parts of the world. Despite the disbelief of his attending nurses and physicians, Dan's claims merit attention since for example he knows quite a lot of languages which he claims he learned by watching subtitled TV's from all over the world.

And there is a mysterious creature with supernatural powers, called the Guardian who wreaks havoc seemingly at random and seems to want to meet all four of the above together for what one presumes to be nefarious reasons. "The Labyrinth" is essentially the story of the four trying to make sense of both their abilities/handicaps and trying to evade their sinister pursuer, with the meaning of the title one of the best twist revelations I've recently read.

While set in the contemporary world in various locations mostly in America and Europe and with back stories from the past, "The Labyrinth" is a timeless tale of the fantastic at its best with an ending that keeps the reader remembering the novel for a long time.

ANALYSIS: "The Labyrinth" has several strengths. While it is clear that something odd is going on, the author manages to keep the general thrust of the story hidden for a long time and the last part when things are revealed is just superb.

The characters make a good contrast; from foul-mouthed Zack and tougher Carly to the more sensitive Sarah and the seemingly most important of all Dan, they establish their individuality quickly and their voices are quite different throughout the novel. As a suitable menacing character, The Guardian keeps in character all the way to the end though things are definitely not what one would usually expect from the description above, to put it mildly...

While "The Labyrinth" takes a little to get going, or more precisely for the scattered beginning scenes and POV shifting to cohere, the mystery is there from the first pages and you definitely want to find out what happens next.

As style goes, while I quite liked the author's prose overall, I had two small issues with "The Labyrinth" - occasionally the usage of some words/phrases will strike native English speakers as odd, though it made sense for me by substituting Romanian analogues, while in the middle part of the novel the dialogue between the characters gets sometimes too "smart" for its own good - but neither detracts from the tremendous achievement of the novel, both as debut and written in English by a young Romanian.

Overall "The Labyrinth" (strong A from me) is one of these unexpected treats that come out of nowhere and about which I would have never heard if not for my work here at FBC. I wish people will check it out to see what you can easily miss in today's very crowded publishing world. Try the sample and if you like it, give the novel a chance since it's worth it for a great story with interesting characters and a mind-blowing ending to boot!


Bastard said...

From what I gather it looks interesting. I can see that you were purposely vague in certain areas as to not spoil, so I'm really not sure still what this is about.

Is this a drama book? Does it contain action, and in what way do we find this action (fight, battle, chase, etc.)?

Still not convinced this might be for me though.

Anyways, nice to see another unknown being reviewed. I'm finding myself quite interested after checking out Secrets of the Sands and that other one Field of Fire looks interesting too.

Liviu said...

Sure there is action - the Guardian wreaks havoc quite graphically - in one scene he shoots a bunch of mobsters for breach of promise; there are burning buildings...

As classification - if I call it UF, it does not quite fit since it takes place all over Europe and America, in cities, but in the desert or on highways or... and the supernatural is generally subtle; the best classification is just a tale of the fantastic in the older meaning

The book is definitely not drama though, more like adventure with the four characters trying to figure out what's going on while staying ahead of the Guardian

Bastard said...

There, you sold me on it. That description certainly fits what I might enjoy reading.

Will keep it in mind.

Don't know if it contains the same content as the links you provided, but there are some sample chapters in this facebook page:

And thanks.

Chad Hull said...

Honestly? The cover and title combination had me sold.
I didn't think it was vague, rather more of a proper 'review' than synopsis/book report.

I am a bit confused though: is the work translated into English or is English the author's second language and the language the book is composed in?

The only thing that worries me is a personal issue: music is my profession and I'm consciously aware of the fact that I take it too seriously in literature and that doing so obscures my perspective on the writing. A deaf pianist? I thought only Beethoven could pull that off!

I'm really excited about reading this.

Liviu said...

The book is written in English not translated, while indeed English is the author's second language

The lengthy Smashword excerpt (25%) should be enough to give a sense how the book reads, while the more "book-like" excerpt from the author's page is beautifully rendered and a visual pleasure to read

Bastard said...


Not the the review was vague, just in certain areas, which has nothing to do with whether the review was good or not, or proper for that matter.

For example, there's no mention of why/how this Guardian is a threat to them and what really motivates these characters throughout the novel, other than understanding themselves. Little is hinted, other than some mystery early on. So in that regard it was a bit vague, and I said purposely vague because you can tell that detailing even a bit more might ruin the experience.

This is not always the case. You can read many reviews from Liviu himself where he is more forthcoming with this type of information.

That's all that was meant by it. It was merely an observation rather than a criticism.

Anyways, Liviu answered some of my doubts, particularly on the drama/action balance that the book might have and how he would classify it, which is always helpful to me.

@Liviu, is the website you linked to the only place you can buy the book (liked to ebay in the UK and a paypal account)? Can't find it anywhere else myself, and since it's shipping from Romania I was wondering.

And last question so I don't bother you anymore, standalone novel? Potential for a sequel?

Liviu said...

Regarding buying it - for now i think so, though I have no doubt the author is good with the book; if you are into ebooks the Smashwords edition is inexpensive, drm free and available instantly; he is exploring having the book on Amazon and the like asap from what I understand.

Labyrinth is a standalone.

Liviu said...

And to add one more thing - for authors outside US, it is trickier to have books on as Greg Hamerton another independent author from whom I will review soon the 2nd book and i reviewed the first 2 years ago and who is from S. Africa/UK told me, though in this case also he is exploring how to do it

random kid said...

I'm reading the book and seems pretty interesting... although isnt Sarah the deaf girl a cello-ist?
cuz a deaf pianist is hared but it's a lot ieasier to play the cello while deaf


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