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|The Light of Eidon
by Karen Hancock
Published by Bethany House, 2003
Highly recommended by: Shannon McNear
Fifth son of the king of Kiriath, young Abramm Kalladorne is sure of his calling as a novitiate of the Sacred Flames and has devoted the last eight years of his life to study and preparation to entrance into the Brotherhood. But he arrives home to find family members murdered and his twin sister and older brother begging him to renounce his decision to pursue the Brotherhood. Closer examination reveals that the Brotherhood may not be all it seems, and a race for his own life ends in being kidnapped and sold into slavery.
This proves to be the making of the weak and mild-mannered Abramm. He survives being made a galley slave, rises to fame as a gladiator, and escapes during a battle with a demon-empowered warlord, then joins a renegade desert tribe in their struggle for freedom against the warlord and his forces.
Meanwhile, Abramm's sister has pursued him across three countries and finally catches up with him on the eve of what will be his greatest match ever. But Abramm's main fight is not with an outward enemy, but within his own heart, over his own broken vows, his sense of significance, and his now-shattered faith in Eidon, whose servants the Brethren claim to be.
The joy in this story is not only in watching a boy become a man and discover the depth of his own character, despite the doubts and fears, but to see mere flesh becoming legend, and in Abramm coming into his own where faith is concerned, finding that the One he loved was there all the time, but not in the guise he'd always assumed Him to be.
I've waited years for the CBA to release just this sort of book a richly-textured, character-driven epic fantasy with enough depth and bulk for a long, satisfying read. Lovers of heroic tales are sure to find something pleasing in both The Light of Eidon and its sequel, The Shadow Within. Karen Hancock's writing is smooth and nearly effortless in this second release after her debut novel, Arena and it's even better on a second read. The book garnered a second Christy Award for the author, and no wonder! (October 14, 2005)
The Light of Eidon is set in a fantasy world that's loosely modelled on Europe and Africa, with monsters and magic thrown in. It concerns the adventures of a young man named Abramm, also known as Eldrin (his monastic/'baptismal' name), as well as those of his twin sister, Carissa. They're of the house of Kalladorne, the royalty of the northern kingdom of Kiriath.
I don't want to give away too much of the plot. One thing I appreciated about this book is that it kept me guessing, and I don't want to spoil that for potential readers. For the first third of the book, I thought Hancock was one of those authors who telegraphs her plot twists miles in advance but then she pulled the rug out from under me. And then she did it again, and again. The twists I expected were, pleasantly, not the twists I got. This pleasure might have been even greater, were it not for the publisher's blurb on the back of the book. For some inexplicable reason it gives away the major plot points. I recommend you skip it.
My other gripe with the publisher is this: the cover makes it look more like a cheesy romance novel than anything. My wife picked it up at the library for me and said she was somewhat embarrassed to do so. Later she asked "Is the story better than the cover?"
Fortunately, it is. Hancock is a good descriptive writer, and brings the landscapes and backdrops to vivid life. The action is exciting, and leads us to some exotic and interesting locales. And as I've mentioned, it's pretty suspenseful.
The dialogue struck me as about average for fantasy novels in general the characters don't always sound real people so much as they sound like, well, characters in a fantasy novel! When they do talk like real people, they sometimes sound like modern Americans. But this is a minor quibble.
The main characters are drawn well and we get to see their reasonably convincing inner lives, along with some insight into human failings. I particularly liked the way Carissa's cynicism and hard-headedness protect her but also lead her astray. The minor characters tend to be more two-dimensional. One thing that rang false for me was this: one of the main characters falls madly in love with someone, but suffers in silence and says nothing. Suddenly one day the object of affection declares their secret, undying love! It all seemed rather pat, as we're shown almost nothing of their developing relationship over a period of years.
The spiritual aspects of this book were fairly direct. I liked some elements, particularly the more allegorical ones flames, stones, heraldry, the rhu'ema, Sheleft'Ai, Eidon, and the debilitating disease which some characters display. There are interesting biblical parallels, most notably with Joseph and his brothers. I appreciated the struggles with faith and doubt. But I felt the book faltered when things got literal one minute the characters are riding off on a quest, the next they're debating the technicalities of substitionary atonement doctrine. The correct religion, which the characters need in their lives, is very obviously contemporary evangelical Christianity. This may be perfectly fine for evangelical readers, but I felt these sections grated with the more symbolic and fantastic elements in the book. Non-Christians will likely feel preached at. Catholic readers may experience some irritation, as there are a few thinly-concealed barbs aimed at the failings of the insititutional church, the Pope, and 'works salvation.' (I know, Catholics don't believe in 'works salvation,' but there's a perception that they do.)
However, overall it's worth reading. I'm certainly planning on reading the next book in the "Legends of the Guardian-King" series. I can't quite figure out where the story's going to go next... Elliot Hanowski
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