Sunday, October 4, 2009
Worlds Unseen by Rachel Starr Thomson
Little Dozen Press
Published November 2007
Trade Paperback, 328 pages
The themes are universal—good conquering evil, the quest for the Truth, a good king who will return to rule. In this Christian-based fantasy novel, Rachel Starr Thomson introduces us to these themes as we become immersed in the Seventh World where the Blackness rules and a small band of people will fight for the freedom they once knew.
The Council for Exploration into Unseen Worlds once sought the Truth and their quest was cut short when they were betrayed by one of their own. Forty years later, young Maggie Sheffield is given a scroll from a former dying member of the Council, and she is sent on a journey that changes her forever. Along the way, she meets the Gifted gypsy Nicolas Fisher who accompanies her to find Jarin Huss, the only member of the Council who could decipher the ancient writing on the scroll. They are later joined by a cast of colourful characters whose lives reach a momentous event. Clearly, the premise of the story is appealing.
From the onset, the author easily transported me to a medieval-like world, where I could feel the dampness of the fog at night, smell the earthiness of the underground tunnels, and hear the flapping wings and the eerie cawing of the black ravens enough to conjure images of Hitchcock’s The Birds. The imagery is captivating, and I was plunged into the scenes, walking with them through the dense, thick forest or running through musty, dark tunnels. The action is well paced and vivid as Maggie and Nicolas live through heart-stopping and heart-warming experiences together.
Now, I knew where the journey would lead but I was hoping to be surprised, jolted even, by some twist and turn of events. But maybe this is not where the author wanted to take me. Nevertheless, the ending was anticlimactic for me. Good conquers evil, but not totally, not really, not yet. (Of course, that’s why there’s a sequel!) But still, let me explain what I mean.
The scenes involving the Blackness and its evil prowess when it hunted down any who were connected with the truth overpowered the book. The gloriousness of the Truth about the good king who was to return to bring blessings in the upcoming future did not come through powerfully enough for me. It was too elusive. I was expecting joy, elation, a sharing of the truth to revive the Council and empower the people. But the people had their own agenda; they were going to stage a rebellion and overthrow the Empire. And the king?
Only a few (out of the eight members) of the Council were stalwart believers in the king’s return as being true and not a legend. The Council came across as a weak organization, breaking up after only three or so months together. Jarin’s whole life was spent teaching secret truths at the University but none of his students really knew of the king and the true circumstances that drove him away. The important role, played by Virginia, a blind Gifted one, “to wake the world” to the king’s return is still confusing to me. No one (did he truly have followers?) was really prepared for the king’s return—a king who is nameless and mysterious. The few that put faith in him do so because of signs and portents but not true knowledge. The words of the prophet Aneryn were unknown because they were lost and written in an ancient language most couldn’t read; yet suddenly some of the characters knew them instinctively during the war?
Despite all this, Thomson has weaved a fantastical tale with enough unanswered questions to have us anticipating the second book in this trilogy. I was left wondering about Lord Robert and Evelyn. And also Lucas Barrington, the only member of the Council mentioned twice but who does not appear at all in the story. And what exactly is Patricia’s past? And Maggie’s?
Albeit some foibles in the plot, I truly liked the characters in this book. The author has cleverly staged the prelude to personal conflicts, and I look forward to joining Maggie and Nicolas again as the journey will undoubtedly continue.