Review: The God Jar - Phill Featherstone
Published: Opitus Books, September 2019
My rating: 2/5 stars It took me a long time to get to this review, just as it took me a long time to work my way through this book in the first place. I make it a point to finish all ARCs I receive, but with this one, I really struggled, mostly because it just wasn’t what I was expecting. As always: I feel a bit worse for writing a “negative review” for an ARC I received for free, yet ultimately honesty is your most important trait as a reviewer. Therefore, my thoughts on The God Jar: 3 reasons this didn’t work for me. The God Jar focusses on a young woman who finds a mysterious jar on the oceanfloor whilst scuba diving. As she and her husband uncover more of its ancient secrets and mysterious properties, they soon realize they might be in over their heads. The novel switches perspective between the past and present, as wel discover the truth behind the God Jar alongside them. The idea of these alternating timelines was what got me intrigued in the first place, but the desparity between both ended up being the book’s downfall. I was expecting the historical one to be “secondary” to the modern one, yet the opposite seemed to be the case. The historical plot and characters felt more fleshed out and more developed than the modern ones, which made for a bit of an unbalanced whole. Seeing as it was the modern storyline that had originally drawn me to the book, I was quite disappointed to see it pale in comparison. I believe the author did a lot of research on the historical timeline, and that shows in the endresult, but the contrast between the two was honestly jarring at times. My second problem is partially a direct result of the first. As someone who’s quite character driven in their taste of books, I have hard time getting invested in a story if I don’t care about the characters. The protagonist couple in The God Jar unfortunately lacked the personality and the chemistry for me to do so. They seemed like cardboard standins and acted based on what the plot needed, as opposed to from a set characterstructure. It made it hard for me to stay engaged in the story, as I simply couldn’t care what happened to the characters. My third problem was the writingstyle, and this again has its roots in the two narratives. The modern narrative at times feels very simplistic, a bit rushed and even amateurish, as if it could have done with one more edit. The historical narrative however, seemed far more deliberate, even “over-written” at some points. I’m not sure if it was this style, or the fact that there was a lot of research and “lore” behind this, but at times it was difficult for me to keep up, and I had to read passages again. I could be completely wrong, but these three points combined created this picture in my mind about how this book came to be. I got the impression it was the historical narrative that the author favoured, and actually wanted to write. A lof of work, and many edits went into this, possibly creating some of the confusing parts I struggled with. The modern narrative seemed more of an afterthought, added on in the end to create a more layered story. Although I liked the idea of the dual timeline, it was the lack of balance between the two that kept me from enjoying the novel as a whole. As always: many thanks to the publisher Opitus Books for providing me with an early copy of the book. My apologies that it took me quite a while to write this.