Book Review – Set Free by Anthony Bidulka

Pages: 283
Published: September 2016
Started reading: 2 October
Finished reading: 5 October

Synopsis (Goodreads)

The truth will set you free. Can lies do the same?

Within minutes of arriving in the exotic, enigmatic, sweltering city of Marrakech, renowned author Jaspar Wills is kidnapped, blindfolded, bound, and beaten. As Wills struggles to survive the ordeal, he recounts his rise to fame and the tragic events that led him to Morocco.

With the kidnapper’s demands left unmet, Wills faces death with fear, grief…and guilt. Is what happened in the past tied to his abduction? Is someone he loves responsible? Or is this payback for his sins? Living with a loss far greater than his own death, Jaspar yearns to be set free. But do some kinds of freedom come at too high a cost?

Six months later, struggling reporter Katie Edwards travels to Morocco to stake her claim on the story with everything—international intrigue, mystery, celebrity, violence, heartbreak, betrayal. Once there, she discovers a shocking truth. As the young journalist’s career soars, Jaspar Wills’ is destroyed…until an act of revenge leads to a stunning revelation that will change everything.

Review

This was a very interesting book with a great deal to admire about it. Full of originality, innovative concepts and varied methods of storytelling, Set Free is a thought-provoking read that asks questions of the reader throughout. Questions that I was often compelled to answer!

The first thing that jumps out about this book is the structure. It begins with a long extract from a book written by the main protagonist, Jaspar Wills, actually called Set Free. Then we have the narrative, which is mainly told in the third-person perspective of journalist Katie Edwards. And finally, part three is an extract from another book written by Wills.

It all amounts to a clever way of telling an increasingly powerful story, and the way it played out meant that I rarely knew what was coming next until right towards the end. It helps cast suspicion and mistrust upon all of the main characters. Throughout part one, the writing is intelligent in that it made me sympathise with Jaspar on the one hand, but also see him as a potentially unreliable narrator.

The structure is not all perfect. I enjoyed part two and its cliffhangers that increased the tension and suspense. However, there were issues with the two book extracts. In part one, I did not like the way the focus often switched between Jaspar’s imprisonment and the story of his daughter’s disappearance, especially mid-chapter. It all felt a little disjointed.

My other problem was that the two extracts felt too much like regular narrative. They are meant as extracts from two non-fiction, retrospective accounts. Instead, they are told in the most minute details as if those events were happening at the time. For example, almost every little action, such as Jaspar’s wife Jenn brushing hair away from her eyes, is described in the book. There is no way that a book of this type could be so specific.

I actually quite liked the writing style. It was apparent early on that as a writer, Anthony Bidulka is very talented. The book is hugely descriptive and well thought through. Although at times the consistent quality is not always there, some passages were really excellent.

My one criticism is that there are too many metaphors, analogies and idioms scattered throughout the book. Many of them are great and inventive and in general I really like seeing all these things in a book, but here it is a bit overdone.

Overall, this is a book with a plot that moves in many fascinating directions and contains a vast number of immensely thought-provoking themes. It is well written and well crafted, and were it not for a few structural and technical issues I would have certainly given it a higher rating. Still, an enjoyable read.

Verdict

An impressive read with interesting concepts and moral questions. Not perfect, but full marks for original storytelling.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

* I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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