*sigh* Inferno... There were good parts and there were bad parts. To be fair, Dan Brown delivers with another thrilling story that his true fans will love. However, it is not his best novel by any means. The most telling sign of that is that it took me about a month to finish reading this book. Now I love Dan Brown, for the most part. Angels & Demons is one of my favorite books ever and I really enjoyed The Da Vinci Code as well. However, The Lost Symbol disappointed me, I just felt it was very boring. Luckily, Inferno is better than The Lost Symbol, but that wasn't too hard to accomplish. I worry though that the conspiracy-driven thriller plot has been worn out.
Inferno opens differently than the other novels in the series in that Robert Langdon wakes up with amnesia. He has lost the past few days and finds himself in Florence, Italy, with only a vision telling him to "seek and find". He begins deciphering clues, as per usual, and gets caught up in a conspiracy revolving around Dante's Inferno (The Divine Comedy). However, him losing his memory was ultimately my biggest problem with this book. It had an extremely slow start, mostly because Langdon is lost himself, questioning everything, trying to remember. This then comes paired with a bunch of flashbacks as well, later in the novel, when they start revealing what exactly happened that he forgot. And then because of Dan Brown's tendency to write from multiple points of view when necessary, different characters had slightly different flashbacks that overlapped and... it felt like the story was completely being stretched too much and it was kind of over done. It was just exhausting, because with such an action-driven story, you want to move forward, and not keep looking back.
The actual conspiracy here was extremely intriguing, though. I love Dan Brown's ability to create a complex villain, who tries to accomplish something that we perceive as evil but from that character's view point with his principles, it could also be right. His ability to dive into the psyche of such characters is ultimately, I think, what will keep me buying his books. The involvement of Inferno and The Divine Comedy was brilliant. It's really inspired me to make sure I read it at some point. I love the history of the poem, the art built up around it, the symbolism... It's absolutely beautiful.
And another strength, of course, is that this book takes place in Italy. I love Dan Brown's descriptions and I'm in love with Italy, so this just made me want to go back there sometime really soon and explore the streets of Florence and Venice again. I also absolutely loved how much Italian was in the book - short phrases which are immediately translated, so it's not confusing. I actually ended up just reading them aloud because it looked so beautiful on the page and... okay, I want to learn Italian at some point so badly. tl;dr: I love Italy and Dan Brown totally exploited that.
While the beginning dragged and dragged until I put the book down for two or three weeks (yeah), the last third or quarter really kept me going when I got back into it. It was action packed. There were plot twists almost every other page or something at one point, and I was just constantly surprised. I mean, people you thought were good turned out to be bad, people you thought were bad turned out to be good, and then it gets like another layer above that. So the last third just reminded me of the kind of spark and addictive quality that first attracted me to Dan Brown in Angels & Demons.
The ultimate ending of the book, however, was a bit of a disappointment. It was a new, different kind of ending, and I respect the originality of it, and the fact that it's not always happily ever after. But even so, the ending just felt very unresolved. And that I don't like.
I think, looking back on Inferno, I'll more likely remember the struggles in the first half of the book than how impressed I was with the second half. However, it was still a good, highly entertaining read. It's not Dan Brown's best - so if you're new to him, I would still advise you to read Angels & Demons first. But, especially for lovers of Italy like me, this has enough substance to keep you entertained. So I'm a bit mixed.
Die-hard fans of Dan Brown and lovers of complex villains, conspiracies, and Italy.