After having read The Rebel Angels and What's Bred In The Bone, and enjoying both of them immensely, I was terribly disappointed in this final book in what finally wound up being the Cornish Trilogy. The pomposity that Davies had always managed to keep in check before finally runs riot, as his barely diguised contempt for his readers' intelligence is clearly displayed. Watch all the characters that you had grown to know and love from the earlier two novels degenerate into mere caricatures. Be angry at the editor who convinced Davies to churn out a third book about these people, so that the publisher could market the group as a TRILOGY. Be sorry you wasted the money and the time on this book.
In The Rebel Angels, Maria's character, provided in a first-person narrative, was so complex and interesting that I'd have been happy with a "Theotoky Trilogy"! Maria's friendship with Darcourt was well drawn and bittersweet. Perhaps a fourth of the way through Lyre, the third person omniscient narration no longer records Maria's thoughts, and Darcourt's journey of self-discovery really gets underway within the context of his Cornish text and the stories of the Hoffman opera and Maria's and Arthur's crisis. Thus, echoing "Henry's" review of this novel, I was disappointed that Maria's own journey remains "under a cloud" (as Darcourt put it), and the novel never really develops her character except as an unintended Guenevere and her final promise to "keep on trying." I'd have liked less rumination on the "magnanimous cuckold" theme--which seems strained after a while and never really reaches as deeply as possible into the pain of the Cornishes' crisis--and more development of Arthur's complex personality, perhaps Maria's research with the Portfolio (a story line pretty much dropped in Lyre), and other themes. Having said all this, however, I greatly enjoyed this novel, and the troublesome course toward the premiere of Hoffman's opera and the publication of Darcourt's life of Francis Cornish made for an erudite and pleasurable story. Davies' novels always provide a richer world than one finds in many stories, and it's a tribute to his gifts that he mixed so many rich worlds in this trilogy.
Treats the same subject as the much earlier A Mixture of Frailties, from a different approach (and in a more modern manner). Philosophical, farcical, thoughtful, touching, and even -- gasp - educational. The plot drives ahead almost unnoticed, as usual, until you realize, quite by accident, that you really need to find out how this is all going to come out.
After reading "The Rebel Angels" and "What's Bred in the Bone", two five star novels, I expected to thoroughly enjoy the last segment of the trilogy. Well, the only reason I made it through the novel was that I wanted to say that I read the entire trilogy. The book completely changes in tone from the first two. Professors I respected in the first books are buffoons in this one. There are an untold number of quotations from opera librettos, medieval poems, etc. that were not relevant to me at all. One of the characters is incapable of appearing without making multiple references to Wales, Welsh literature and history. This would not have been a problem except that this is one of the main characters. The whole gypsy theme, which was so fascinating in the rebel angels gets overwhelmed by the Welshness. In sum, it turned its back on wonderful characters, made obscure references to poems I never read, focused too much on opera and changed in tone from the first two books in a rather dissappointing way. Alas.
This is a pretty good book...it kept my attention and had enough pull to take me out of the real world for a time. Just one warning, however--do not go into this book expecting it to have very much to do with Arthurian legend!