Review: Realms of Gold

Many thanks to News & Experts for sending Realms of Gold to the Literary Hoarders!

goldRealms of Gold, penned by Terry Stanfill, was much-anticipated by fans of her earlier work, The Blood Remembers (2002).   While Realms of Gold is an impressive journey, I’m afraid that I wasn’t clamoring to pick it up at every available opportunity.  The premise was very promising, and the ties to Camelot were what sold the description.  I love a smart book.  In the end however, I felt like I was eavesdropping on an archaeologist’s dream conversation, while waiting for a highly predictable romance to play itself out.

That’s not to say that Realms of Gold is not meticulously researched.  It is.  The author’s enthusiasm was evident throughout; she could barely contain her vast knowledge to the pages.  From the Holy Grail to the origin of the Starbucks logo, Stanfill couldn’t share enough.  After reading the dialogue of this book, you’re practically dizzy with information.  Realms of Gold pushes past typical historical fiction, and meshes academia with romance.

From Goodreads:

In 1953 archaeologists near Châtillon-sur-Seine, France discovered a massive bronze krater in the grave of a Celtic woman. Although the Krater was discovered in Burgundy, it was cast in Southern Italy circa 510 B.C. and made its way to Vix, a village at the foot Mont Lassois, once Latisco, an important Celtic trading citadel. Bianca Evans Caldwell, a writer for a New York art magazine, came upon the Krater accidentally and becomes obsessed with the great vessel and with the princess-priestess buried with it. Since then, Bianca has returned to the museum in Châtillon-sur-Seine six times to admire the Krater of Vix.

…As the story unfolds Bianca begins to write about the Krater, how, why and with whom it made its journey from the south of Italy to be buried in the earth of Vix.

It’s writer Bianca Evans Caldwell and Italian archeologist Giovanni Di Serlo who pursue the truths of history, after a chance meeting at a wedding in Venice.  She’s open to the inevitable romance between the two of them, he is not.  I’m sure this back and forth between the characters was supposed to leave the reader wanting.  Alas, their coupling was too predictable for any page burning.  What I did enjoy was Bianca herself; she was determined, and wildly intelligent.  Some of the knowledge she shared made her sound like the archeologist.  She was a well-written character, and a very likeable one as well.  You’ll root for her to find all of the answers that she seeks.

Stanfill’s writing works hard to align the past with the present, and moves back and forth in time with ease.  This helps gives the quest an organized format, while offering the reader the information needed to properly understand the implications of what they find.  The dialogue also attempts to propel the plot, but too often it had a robotic quality.  I like for conversations to sound real and sincere, rather than coming across like a university text.

Bianca Evans Caldwell:

The Celts must have been awestruck by the Etruscans, Sybarites and Poseidonians – by their refinements – not to mention the immensity of their architecture.  It’s a wonder they didn’t build something as grand as this temple in or around their citadel at Latisco.

There was no question that the information was fascinating.  The issue for me was how the sheer volume of it clouded my connection to the story.

Overall, Realms of Gold was clearly a labor of love for the author.  While for me it lacked a readable quality, it was still imaginative and inspired.  If you’re in the mood for a light read, this is not the novel for you.  On the other hand, if you’re hungry for history and legend, this will meet your expectations.

3 stars.