Monday, October 28, 2013

Matilde Asensi - The Last Cato

A masterful blend of Christian scholarship and thrilling adventure, The Last Cato is a novel about the race to find the secret location of the Vera Cruz, the True Cross on which Christ was crucified, and the ancient brotherhood sworn to protect it.
Holy relics are disappearing from sacred spots around the world—and the Vatican will do whatever it takes to stop the thieves from stealing what is left of the scattered splinters of the True Cross.
Brilliant paleographer Dr. Ottavia Salina is called upon by the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church to decipher the scars found on an Ethiopian man's corpse: seven crosses and seven Greek letters.
The markings, symbolizing the Seven Deadly Sins, are part of an elaborate initiation ritual for the Staurofilakes, the clandestine brotherhood hiding the True Cross for centuries, headed by a secretive figure called Cato.
With the help of a member of the Swiss Guard and a renowned archaeologist, Dr. Salina uncovers the connection between the brotherhood and Dante's Divine Comedy, and races across the globe to Christianity's ancient capitals. Together, they will face challenges that will put their faith—and their very lives—to the ultimate test.

Comment: A reader's biggest problem is to find time to read. Then it's to actually read the books on all those piles we keep adding titles into. So, although it's a bit shameful, it's also not a big surprise this book has been in my TBR list for a little bit more than 3 years. I bought it on sale once because the theme seemed very interesting and I thought it would suit a great day of reading (a that time I didn't have a job yet). Well, time had gone by since then and this year I've put this title in my monthly lists because I wanted to get it out of the way. I wasn't actually prepared to enjoy it as much as I did.

The story is contemporary. It follows three main characters through their journey to solve a mystery and to unravel the reasons why a man is dead after a plane crash and mostly why he had catholic things in a box and why his body is full of symbols. The main characters are a professor, a nun and a captain from the Swiss Guard of the Vatican, a very unlikely team, but one we'd get to know well and hope to succeed. Their travels start at the Vatican but will go abroad, always following Dante Alighieri's book, Divine Comedy, as a clue index. What would happen when they finally reach the conclusion to their adventure?

Another of the many things that plague a reader is how often they wish they could have read a certain book sooner than they did. Well, the same thing happened with this one. For me, this one of the best books I've read this year and I really regret not having picked it before!
I've read this book in Portuguese and it's one of those we wished more people would see its beauty and how special it was for us. I know everyone feels different about the same things, but this book really made my year.

The story starts with the investigation of the dead man from the plane crash but the idea that something important is behind his death is also pretty fast to find out. The three characters don't know each other from the start, only when Ottavia, the nun that works at the Vatican finds out things she wasn't supposed to and is dismissed. But she knows so she is invited to help the captain again and with the help of the professor, the three of them start to decipher the message hidden in the Divine Comedy and how this can help them to know the location of one of the Cristianism's most sought relics, the Cross where Christ was crucified.
I thought the goal of this novel to be a very interesting one. Being a catholic myself, I also am curious to know if what was found out three centuries after Christ died was the real thing and this book offers a very well researched data on this and on many other subjects about the Cristianism. In fact, the historical data and figures is something not boring and actually very well inserted into the main storyline. I loved learning so man things and not feeling I was having information dumped on me. As every factoid was used within the story, we learn things without being aware of that in a boring way, which I thought was clever of the author and quite the writing trick.

This book is purely fictional though. It does make references to historical facts and contemporary names well known by the public, but the story itself is only fictional and made up. Still, the author has written things is a very passionate and fluid way and I couldn't put the book down. There's even a romance, which I thought was so beautiful and with so many great scenes.
The characters were develop well enough and we got to see some human and personal development at the same time the plot evolved. We see their lives outside this and it ads up to their characterization, making them more real d in a way, close to us. So, this is a very fluid story like I said and also very alive and vibrant. I really liked the book, is full of things and people and new details about this or that and I loved every month spent reading it.

This book is fictional, like I said, but still, I thought the end was a little bit too fantasy-like and it's the only reason why I don't give it a perfect 10. It didn't ruin the story for me, quite the opposite, but it's still something I can't ignore. Still, it was marvelous and I wanted to read it all nonstop, which I couldn't, but I really had that will to carry on...I think when a book pulls you like that, it has to be a winner!
I recommend it to everyone!
Grade: 9/10

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