Set during World War II and the years that follow, Warlight is a coming-of-age novel by Michael Ondaajte, the author of the acclaimed book, The English Patient. Following the stories of siblings Michael and Rachel, and to a lesser extent the shadowy collection of characters who move in and out of their lives, including their parents, the novel is also a homage to the unnamed men and women who worked in Britain’s secret service and the price they paid as a result.
Two of the most interesting characters in the book come from the assortment of people that hover around the children: the rogues known as The Moth and The Darter. Somehow, however, The Moth doesn’t get fleshed out in the manner of The Darter, even though The Moth is the children’s primary care-giver. The Darter is the story’s most interesting character, more so than any of the book’s protagonists, and I couldn’t help thinking that these are the type of characters at which Ondaatje is best; think about Carvaggio, the thief from The English Patient.
The book has an interesting setting, but suffers from a primary protagonist, Michael, who really doesn’t make you care that much about him. In addition, the story suffers from too many, too easy coincidences; the pace isn’t well-maintained, the narrative is poorly structured, and many readers will not finish this book. Save yourself the trouble and skip Warlight unless you find it necessary to declare to the world that you have read all of Ondaatje’s published works.