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Monday, July 5, 2010

Review: Earthbow, Vol. 1by Sherry Thompson

Sherry Thompson's Blog
ISBN: 978-0-9825087-3-2

Any fears that Seabird and its sequels would end up mimicking The Chronicles of Narnia are dispelled with this first volume of Earthbow, by Sherry Thompson. Indeed, in feel and focus, this book departs from Seabird while still living in the rich universe created there.

First, while Seabird remained in Cara's point of view the whole time, this book has several. The storyline is more complicated, with various threads spinning around each other. Some threads touch others, some tie together, others remain lose, waiting to be wrapped up in Volume 2. The reader sees and experiences more of the world, the culture, and the darkness than in Seabird.

Second, Cara doesn't return for this story, rather her brother, Xander, is introduced into this world. And instead of experiencing Xander's entrance into the world and his acceptance of his mission, we jump into the story two weeks after he's been in the world, already carrying the Earthbow, and apparently ready to find out what he was sent there to do, and do it, though it's obvious he isn't ready.

Third, Xander, while the Outworlder, isn't the central character or focus in this volume. Harone, a key character from Seabird, acts as Xander's guide and we frequently find ourselves in his point of view, and realize he's struggling with his own journey and growth as an Enchanter, facing the dark evil that he wrestles to fight back. Another thread follows Coris, serving an evil king influenced by the dark evil that is working to enslave the lands, and his ethical struggle both to do what is right in the face of possible death, and his struggle with faith in someone greater than himself. Many other characters interact or take the points of view, but relate to one of these two threads in one way or another. As a matter of fact, while Xander is an interesting character, in this volume he is upstaged by the rich and varied cast of characters. This volume isn't as much his story as it is Harone's and Coris'.

I admit, when I first dug into this book, I was expecting Seabird II, and it threw me a bit when I didn't get that. But once past that realization, I found a greatly expanded and darker view of Narenta and the lands in this world. The characters are well drawn, complete with their own histories, flaws, and struggles. The silent enemy working behind the scenes, and those he controls, provide definite and constant tension as the story progresses. Earthbow, while in the Narenta world, is its own book. The feel is more like Lord of the Rings. Not so much in the plot, but in the scope of the story arc. The book takes on a more epic ambiance than Seabird contained.

But unlike Lord of the Rings, and more like The Chronicles of Narnia, the allegory runs deep. Alphesis still is present and guiding, but hidden. This makes the volume a great read for the non-Christian who may not bother with seeing allegorical relationships to Christian characters or principles, and simply enjoy the story for what it is: an engaging story any fantasy fan would love to sink their teeth into. At the same time, the Christian reader can read it and derive valid Christian thoughts and applications to their lives, if they wish. For either reader, they will find Earthbow a gem of a story.

The writing is well done, easy to follow most of the time. Sometimes the jumping around to different points of view takes some getting used too, and for my taste, happened too frequently in spots. Yet, it wasn't so bad that it distracted me from the story. More like shifting gears on a manual transmission. Most of the shifts are established well enough and the reader will be able to keep up with who's who and where they are. I also found many of the descriptions rich without being overbearing, and the action easy to follow.

One other note, mentioned above but bears pointing out: this is volume 1 of a two volume book. It contains books one and two. The second volume, yet to come out as of this writing, will have books three and four and an epilogue. Consequently, while there is a thread that is tied up and a climax to this book, there are also a lot of threads yet to be woven to a conclusion. I'm told that Xander will play a greater role in the next volume, and a lot of the story lines will be completed there, including Coris'. It's your traditional middle book problem. You have to wait for the next one to get the ending.

That said, don't wait for the next volume to come out to read this. I highly recommend this book. And though I rarely do this, I'll give it five out of five stars. If the follow-up fails to deliver, that would be a shame. But I have every expectation that it will deliver. And I look forward to discovering how these stories conclude.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the author.

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