Monday, July 9, 2012

Helena Soister and The Compass Master

At 523 pages and some 100 chapters, The Compass Master is not a book for the people who gobble up Twilight fan-fiction like it was cotton candy. Fortunately, I'm not one of those people.

So what is The Compass Master? In short, it's a book that chronicles the discovery of extraordinary Biblical artifacts: the alleged final epistle by Paul written by the apostle himself, another by the granddaughter of a female apostle who debunks the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, and one by the monk who hid both of these.

The story is told through differing points-of-view (third person omniscient). The main one is Layla Daltry, a sexy, athletic, and incredibly smart heroine who (when teamed with Zach--an equally sexy male counterpart) is able to unravel a mystery that the Catholic church has kept secret for centuries. Another character is a nun who is in her own right a heroine with church secrets to protect. Finally, there are the bad guys, twin brother assassins in service to an American who want to stop Layla Daltry from fulfilling her quest which could create a firestorm among the academic and religious authorities of the Christian world.

So in analyzing this book, it may be best to start with the question "Who are the Compass Masters?" They were men who called their drawing compasses "diviners" because they believed in sacred mysteries which they could divine through mathematics. In other words, they attempted to explain mysteries through secret codes that they then built into actual structures.

I tend to think that the title "The Compass Master" is a nod to Zach who is essentially one of these "Compass Masters" if not actually a part of that society because he figures so much out by using math. In fact, there is throughout this novel, a theme of numbers and geometric shapes. As Helena points out in this book, it was Plato who taught that by studying geometry a person purifies the eye of the soul. "To them and other medieval intellectuals, numbers were a manifestation of divine order, a human fulfillment of the words God uttered in Genesis: 'I have made everything with number, measure, and weight."

The Compass Master is one of the most cerebral reads that I have taken on since Murukami's 1Q84. I found myself pausing often to reflect upon what the author was pointing out about our knowledge of the Book of Revelation and how it was essentially put into The Bible because the Catholic Church desired control. "Fill them with fear and tell them that your religion alone holds the key to their salvation...Have them focus on the next world while religious and political leaders control wealth and power in this one." Conspiracy theories abound in this tale. But then, you really can't have secret societies and not go into conspiracy theories. That's where all the fun is.

I give The Compass Master five stars out of five. I have read the Dan Brown novels (DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons), and I think this book could easily sit on the shelf with those other books. The amount of research that went into this novel boggles my mind. I tip my hat to Helena for weaving such an intricate pattern of mystery, thrilling history, and a courageous examination into questions not often demanded from The Bible. I hope that she's planning another Layla Daltry book so I can see how the fame she garners from the discoveries in The Compass Master affect her life. I'd also like to see if she and Zach will ever get back together. They seem meant for each other. It is sad to note that the abbey in the book is closing because they no longer have enough young nuns to keep it open. It's kind of a poignant "sign of the times" that as the world becomes more educated, the sun begins to set on the Catholic Church.

If you love historical thrillers, I strongly recommend you invest in this book.

Helena blogs at Becoming Layla located HERE.

You can purchase her book on Amazon for $3.50 on Kindle located HERE.

You can be supportive and mark her book "To Read" on Goodreads HERE.

31 comments:

  1. Catholics can't catch a break these days, can they? Good review for Helena!
    And did you know word verification was back on?

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  2. This sounds intriguing. If you want to read a book about a real Biblical code, check out The God Code by Gregg Braden. It's non-fiction, but you WILL think about it long after you're done reading. It blows everything you've learned about science in school out of the water.

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  3. i'd be interested in this book. I'm a Dan Brown fan and like this type of book. I'll check it out.

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  4. Ha ha, I thought Compass Master meant the directional compass, so I was picturing some kind of ninja Boy Scout.

    Do people ever get tired of conspiracy theories though? It seems everything these days is some vast conspiracy dating back centuries and so forth. To me though it always seems implausible because for a really great conspiracy to work you need to have a lot of organization and foresight, not to mention people who can keep a secret.

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  5. @Alex: I turned word verification on to combat spammers. But it seems that they have some live ones that are targeting my blog. I'll take the verification off and just get rid of anonymous comments and see if that is better. I know it's hard on the commenters but honestly, people don't have to comment every day. I'll still come to your blogs. I just want to get a hold of this spam that I'm getting which is about four per hour when verification is off.

    @Em: I'll be checking out that book.

    @Brinda: It's a good read. Helena has done her research.

    @P.T.: Thanks for the tweet alerting me that I have live spammers and not just robots.

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  6. Thanks for the review. I'll add this one to my reading list. I find the subject intriguing.

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  7. I do love historical thrillers.

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  8. I really love the cover and the premise. I enjoyed the Da vinci Code so I'm going to check out this book.

    I hate to mention a pet peeve, but I recommend the author take this out of the blurb on Amazon in the first line.
    "A masterpiece of suspenseful storytelling..."

    Let the readers determine if it's a masterpiece, don't tell them.

    But otherwise, the blurb is good.

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  9. Great review. I need to put this one on my TBR pile.

    Teresa

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  10. Excellent review. I love books like this that make you think - and I love history/religious novels.

    I will say one thing, having been raised Catholic (although I'm not these days): The Catholic Church doesn't take the Book of Revelation literally. It's not a doomsday armageddon prophetic doom and gloom kinda deal.

    So to me, it's not the Catholic Church using it as a means of control, since there is no official stance from the Vatican on Revelations.

    I think it's the staunch Fundamentalists that preach fear and dread that use it to control others.

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  11. @Jay: And Helen does draw that conclusion through her book too. The Book of Revelation is not taken literally except by extremists. But what I like is how she informs me of all the things that have happened because of extremist beliefs in the Book of Revelation (the Crusades being one).

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  12. Sounds fascinating. I would love something like this. MUST.READ!

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  13. Michael, thank you so much for this wonderful surprise! I was so glad you were reading TCM but I had no idea you were going to review it, and what a kind, intelligent review it is. I love you to pieces.

    I probably should add that yes, I slam the Catholic Church in some parts, but I defend it in others. Basically who I really slam are the extreme right-wingers in both the Catholic and Protestant fundamentalist churches because of their religious and political agendas. I also bring in the Orthodox Church because they're one of the three branches of Christianity, so their history figures in my story's background.

    Of course I've taken peeks at Slipstream, Michael, and I already love it. As soon as I finish it (this week) I'll be glad to talk it up. You deserve the best.

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  14. I'm so glad you're not one of THOSE people.

    I just wrote a third person omniscient YA manuscript. That's not done much in books these days--especially for YA.

    The book sounds interesting. I thought The Da Vinci Code had a cool premise, so it might be my kind of book.

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  15. Now this sounds like something I'd definitely read! Will add it on Goodreads so I don't forget about it.

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  16. What an amazing cover on that book! It's so colorful!
    And this sounds really fun, though i've yet to get around to reading any Dan Brown...

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  17. On the TBR list. Thanks for something different.

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  18. That cover is so captivating! My TBR list is long, but I'm downloading a Kindle sample now. :-)

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  19. sounds delightful, and just to inform you that I have some serious hotness today at my bay! Trust me, you don't wanna miss it, Mikey!

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  20. Sounds interesting but all the wealth and power in the Catholic church is used to feed and aid more helpless than any other church. Oh well, I like your blog and your posts.

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  21. @desert: Thanks for the compliment. I was baptized Catholic. Just to be clear, this post is about what I found in the book, not my opinion of the Catholic church. I found the book interesting.

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  22. Sounds like an interesting book. I'm not on Goodreads, though, so I won't be marking it as anything. (I don't have to know anything about the Bible, though, do I? Because I'm completely Bible ignorant.)

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  23. Sounds really intriguing. I'll have to put it on my list.

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  24. Wow. This book sounds really good. Stunning cover!

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  25. This sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the review!

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  26. Michael: another intelligent and balanced review. The story sounds interesting. I really like the cover.

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  27. Once again, Michael, I want to thank you for your very kind review, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. Like any other writer, I often struggle with doubts and wonder if my novels are any good. But today, because of you, I feel like literary hot stuff.

    You're a gem.

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  28. Halfway through reading your review I was planning to ask if this fits in with Dan Brown's books. Well, you answered that, and The Compass Master sounds awesome. I added it to my Goodreads. Thanks! :)

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  29. Ooo... sexy heroine with a equally sexy male-counterpart? I'm in!

    Thanks for this, Michael. Very fun. :D

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  30. Nice review. I may go add this to my goodreads list.

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  31. This sounds like a book I'd like to read, just not in front of my Dad.(:
    Thanks for the review, got it on my to read list.

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