I’m a massive Dan Brown fan and hadn’t stopped questioning the implications of ‘Inferno’ by the time ‘Origin’ came out; even so I dashed off to the supermarket on the morning of the big release to get stuck into the next Robert Langdon. And the verdict? Warning: spoilers ahead…
The ming boggles at the possibilities of Edmond’s prediction just as it did with the population crisis in ‘Inferno’, and the set up of Edmond’s presentation was incredible.
I will say that the build up to the finale of the book wasn’t quite like other Langdon books – a lot of the book is spent in one location with a lot of background noise ticking over about the royal palace of Spain which turns out to be something less sinister and more bittersweet than imagined (which was a lovely, brilliantly underplayed twist). Whilst I did love that twist, I didn’t quite understand why so much was made of the palace’s involvement; personally, it felt like all the build-up to Valdespino potentially being the big bad was let down by sidestepping the potential church involvement and worrying over the monarchy instead – perhaps ‘Da Vinci’ did enough to the church! It was a shame because we lost the importance of the murder of the religious officials amongst all this changeover between settings and the movement between religion to monarchy as a focus; it’s never nice to feel like the deaths of characters are senseless, but it’s how (until the final revelation) the Imam and Rabbi’s deaths were made to feel by undermining them.
There was a lot of tension constantly being built with little catharsis throughout – no revelations or small reveals, just the reveals that you’d expect in the final part of a book. I have to say, I prefer Langdon being a bit more active and not just trawling a library for most of a book!
However, redemption came in another brilliantly undersold and stunning moment which I’d suspected from about midway through – Winston’s involvement in Edmond’s assassination. What a stunning thought after Edmond just about put a positive twist on his predictions about the future – that it’s not all bright, not all rosy, and is just as sinister as it initially sounded. It was also odd, when Winston announced his departure, to feel sad about this – he’s essentially a robot and here we are missing him! It definitely showed us the possibilities of AI and the conflicted emotions Langdon will have felt, something which made our leading man all the more accessible to us.
Ambra was our traditional female sidekick – beautiful, age-appropriate for Langdon, smart…and I’ll be honest, I was a bit fed up of her being referred to as the ‘future queen of Spain’ every other sentence. In herself, an endearing character, our author was just a little heavy-handed with her significance to the royal household. However, she was a character worthy of our previous female counterparts to Langdon, and not since Sophie Neuveau have I genuinely felt Langdon have a connection that could have been more with his co-adventurers.
Overall, ‘Origin’ was an enjoyable and thought-provoking ride with Langdon once more – yes, nothing will ever live up to the wonder of ‘Angel and Demons’ and ‘Da Vinci’, but both ‘Inferno’ and ‘Origin’ have worked hard to show our Harvard professor isn’t past it yet (let’s ignored ‘The Lost Symbol’…) – and I hope to see him swinging from church towers long into the future…!