A brutal and yet elegant takedown (or the art of the negative review)

It’s unfortunate for Caleb Carr that the craft of writing so often disobeys a beloved American maxim: Hard work pays off. The colossal effort Carr has exerted to produce his latest book, “The Legend of Broken,” weighs distressingly on each of the novel’s 734 pages, including nearly 80 pages of endnotes. This is a fantasy epic — the tale of a fabled Germanic kingdom that rose and fell during the Dark Ages — but with its convoluted prose, its trudging plot and its onslaught of unsurprising period detail, it’s a perverted one. Sweat drips from the pages. Magic does not rise.

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