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Christian fiction meets fantasy of the highest order,
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This review is from: Light of Eidon (Legends of the Guardian-King, Book 1) (Paperback)Karen Hancock is the real deal. I haven't been this excited about a relatively new author in a long time. Her debut novel, Arena, was fantastic, a stunning merger of science fiction and Christian fiction. Now, with her second book, she begins a fantasy series dubbed Legends of the Guardian-King, a storyline pitting good against evil in an otherworldly mediaeval setting. There is an element of sword and sorcery here, and I could not help but wonder just how effectively the author of Arena would deal with the grim realities of battle and bloodshed and mine the depths of evil in the hearts of men. Well, Hancock nails it - it's as simple as that. The Light of Eidon is just exquisitely rendered fantasy that keeps you turning the pages deep into the night. It's dark, grim, sometimes bloody, but ultimately imbued with an essential spirituality that places it on a far different plane than run-of-the-mill fantasy.
Hancock is a master of characterization, really taking us inside the hearts and souls of the novel's central characters and surrounding them with fascinating individuals who manage to surprise us no matter how well we think we know them. Good and evil exist on two planes, the external and the internal, and that gives this story great depth. On the face of it, this might look like one in a long line of fantasy plots - the young prince who repudiates his birthright, finds himself betrayed and sold into slavery, then fights to gain his freedom and inspire his people in the process. The framework is familiar, but the story Hancock tells goes far beyond the familiar and mundane.
For eight years, Abramm Kalladorne, the fifth son of the king of Kiriath, has dedicated himself to the service of his god Eidon. Just as he is preparing to finally take the solemn vows of his order, however, his life is turned upside down. The years of seclusion leave him unprepared to deal with the excitement that greets his appearance in the capital - or the fact that the suspicious deaths of his father and several brothers have left him a heartbeat away from the throne. Having yet to feel the touch of the flames of Eidon, he is worried enough about being found unworthy during the upcoming ceremony, but he is soon torn apart by complications of political intrigue. His own brother the king is a Terstan, having adopted a religion that is anathema to Abramm; the Terstans believe that their god is accessible to all, which goes against everything Abramm has been taught. Soon, though, he begins to question everything he knows, everything he spent eight years learning, as he hears speculation that his holy mentor is only using him to attain secular power over Kiriath itself. Emotional turmoil envelops Abramm's soul, and even he can no longer set aside his doubts after he is betrayed and sold as a slave to the men of the southern lands.
Abramm had never shown any skill with a weapon in his childhood, and he had devoted the last eight years of his life to a pursuit of perfect peace, but he has to overcome his weaknesses and abandon his religious oaths when he is made a gladiator by his new master. He must either fight or die, and he refuses to give in and die. In time, the story of the White Pretender and his companion the Infidel spread far and wide, as this White Pretender continues defeating the surrogates of the evil Beltha'adi in one gladiatorial contest after another. The vanquished Dorsaddi people look upon the White Pretender as the savior prophesied to reawaken the Heart of their people and exact revenge upon their enemies. An air of rebellion sweeps the land, as all eyes look toward the inevitable battle between the White Pretender and Beltha'adi himself.
The Light of Eidon is full of action, much of it brutal and bloody, but the real conflict here comes in the form of Abramm's fight to find something to believe in. Abramm breaks all of his vows and turns away from the god he once wanted nothing more than to serve, but that does not mean that Eidon has turned away from Abramm. In the midst of his troubles, Abramm refuses to believe his Terstan friend who insists that all of their suffering is actually for the good, a necessary part of Eidon's plans. Resolution does not come until Abramm is forced to confront his religious doubts, at which point he finally knows what he must do.
It's easy to draw comparisons between Abramm's struggle and that of our own, searching for religious truth in a world of evil deeds and great confusion. This spiritual depth of The Light of Eidon makes it a truly inspirational and thought-provoking read, as the novel's obvious allusions to Christian suffering give the story a resonance you won't find in other works of fantasy. Read it as Christian allegory or simply as a gripping tale of fantasy or both - Karen Hancock's writing works and impresses on all levels.