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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Time for an Art History Lesson: A Review of The Omega Factor by Steve Berry

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your caption on this journey into my bookcases.

Bears waving.
Hi, how's it going today?

Today, I bring you another book review courtesy of Novel Suspects Insider’s Club; they aren’t paying me for my review, they just sent me the book for free. Huge thank you to Novel Suspects Insider’s Club and Grand Central Publishing for sending me an advanced copy of today’s book. It truly means a lot to me that someone wants to send me books.

And that brings me to today’s review. Please welcome to the stage The Omega Factor by Steve Berry! The Omega Factor goes on sale June 7, 2022.

Book cover of The Omega Factor by Steve Berry.

Before I get to the synopsis, a spoiler alert is in order. I also have a quick content and trigger warning for y’all as well. The Omega Factor deals with the Catholic church and the priest sex abuse scandal that is currently ongoing. One of the side plots fully revolves around a victim seeking justice so this topic is brought up in great length at times. Just be aware of that before going. Now let’s get to the synopsis.

The Omega Factor begins in Belgium; Ghent to be exact. Sister Kelsey Deal is restoring the final part of the Ghent Alterpiece. The Ghent Alterpiece is a twelve panel masterpiece created in the early 15th century by Jan van Eyck. Over the course of history, this masterpiece was attacked, worshiped, stolen, reproduced, and fought over. In 1934, one piece was stolen and lost to time. Or so it was thought.

Bill Hader as Stefon on SNL.

During its restoration, Sister Kelsey discovered that the piece she had been hired to restore, the piece believed by the world to be a reproduction, was actually the original panel. This is a huge deal to the art world and some religious circles, really a huge piece of news in general, except for one small issue. Sister Kelsey’s lab ends up being destroyed in a fire taking this major discovery with it.

Homer Simpson yelling, "NO!"
A sad, sad day in art history.

Enter Nick Lee, a United Nations’ Cultural Liaison and Investigative Office officer; a big title just to say he’s a person who makes sure stuff like the Mona Lisa and Starry Night aren’t destroyed or stolen. Luckily, Nick scores an invite to Kelsey’s workshop the night of the fire, and he’s able to save her laptop which has high resolution photos of the newly restored/found panel on it.

Jonah Hill being excited.
Yay! Still a sad day in art history, but the lose is slightly lesser.

Now Nick and Kelsey are on the hunt to discover who wants the Ghent Alterpiece destroyed, and what it means. Turns out, the alterpiece is a bit of a treasure map which leads to a secret so big that the world will never be ready for it.

Indiana Jones staring at golden idol.
Definitely getting some small Indiana Jones vibes.

This secret also comes complete with a bitter, centuries long conflict. On one side, the Vatican. On the other side, a secret order of nuns known as the Vultures. Neither side wants this secret to be discovered, but they have very different reasons as to why. What transpires is an adventure full of danger, religion, art, and life and death stakes.

Bill Hader as Stefon on SNL.
This book has it all.

This book grew on me the longer it went on. Full disclosure, The Omega Factor has a really slow start and I was not sold on it right away. I had no clue what was going on exactly; at least in the first third of the novel. Readers are not told what the characters are trying to protect or destroy. It makes it hard to get into because there is no reason for readers to want to continue. As a reader, you’re fully in the dark. I get that the author wants to keep what the alterpiece points to a secret for a little bit, but the longer that goes on, the less motivation there is to continue. What makes it even harder to continue reading is the fact the characters aren’t that great.

Nick is boring. He’s what you expect from his type of character. He’s athletic, witty, strong willed; very much your typical secret agent kinda character. He’s not the worst character though. For that, we must turn to Sister Kelsey Deal. She is Nick’s ultimate unattainable love. Seriously, the pair was engaged but then Kelsey realized she loved God more so she became a nun and broke off the engagement. I don’t want to call her a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but she certainly has some similar vibes. Despite playing a major role in the novel, she only exists to cause longing and heartache to Nick. I do question if a previous draft included Kelsey quitting her life as a nun in order to get back together with Nick.

Miss Piggy banging her head on a table.
If that had happened, you would hear me screaming.

None of the characters grab attention. Every single one simply exists. Looking back, no one stands out in my mind and I couldn't tell you any of the characters' names outside of Kelsey and Nick. I can’t say that these are all stock characters, but they aren’t more than one or two steps above that. Characters are not this novel’s strong suit.

Steve Berry put a lot more effort into the religious aspects of this book. There are hundreds upon hundreds of years of actual history The Omega Factor covers. On top of that, Berry has hundreds of years’ worth of fake history to create as well. While I had no clue what he was talking about half the time simply because I’m not a religious person, there is still so much detailed work put in to this novel. The religious history is a central part of this book, and the effort is clearly there.

Woman clapping.
Snaps for Steve Berry.

Overall, this novel has a high level of effort put into it. There are a ton of plotlines that seamlessly combine into one by the end, but that’s very much a double edged sword. Each chapter follows a different character than the last; some of which, chapters and characters both, were more interesting than others. I’ve already included my thoughts on the characters so now I’ll focus solely on the plotlines.

Listen, some of the plotlines were wholly unnecessary. I’m specifically talking about the priest sex abuse scandal. To me this plot comes across as a ripped from the headlines style SVU episode. It feels like it’s included simply for the reason that it can be. I don’t feel like it offers anything to the main plot. The characters involved don’t really have any stakes in the main storyline. It feels included just because it could be. It’s definitely a topic that should be discussed, especially in a novel centered on the Catholic church, but it does not fit in with the adventure-esque story.

The Omega Factor desperately wants to have the same energy as The DaVinci Code, and at the end of the day, I don’t think it does. I’m not mad I read this book. As I said at the start, this story grew on me the further along I got. Overall, I was not enthralled by it but I did not hate my time spent with it. All this to say, “it’s alright.”

Elmo shrugging.

With that, I shall bid you all adieu. I shall see you all next week with another great book review. Also, how is it almost June? How are we halfway done with the year? Did I not just finish Murder Mystery March? Well anyway, I’ll see y’all next week.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all next week, bye!

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