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Earthbow: Volume 1: Part One of the Second of the Narentan Tumults Paperback – March 21, 2010
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About the Author
One of the top award winners in the 2006 Genesis writing contest, Earthbow is Sherry Thompson’s second novel, following the release of her debut, Seabird. Her work has also appeared in F/SF, The Best of Gryphonwood, and The Inkslingers. Recently retired from the University of Delaware Library, Thompson is now at work on Earthbow, volume 2.
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It's noticeably darker, and the characters the reader meets face difficult choices and situations, as well as their own uncertainty and inner struggles. Unlike "Seabird," Xander is already in Narenta at the beginning of the book, and while the reader does get to know him, the other storylines get as much if not more attention then he does (he does get more in volume 2, I hear). One new character, Coris, is quite interesting, and Harone is back. And while it is gloomy in the beginning (Coris just can't seem to do anything right at first), Khiva soon appears to provide some (not out-of-place) entertaining relief.
Over all, I think I may have enjoyed reading "Earthbow" more than I did with "Seabird." It reads smoothly and quickly, and the three intertwined storylines were all enjoyable, so I didn't mind when they changed from one to another. And, while it is grittier than "Seabird," it still has a quality that reminds me of J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and C. S. Lewis, the better-known members of the Inklings.
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 struggles 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.
Originality - 5/5
Writing Style - 5/5
Plot - 5/5
Characters - 5/5
Aesthetics - 4/5
Earthbow is the second book in the Narentan Tumults, being preceded by Seabird.
Wow, somebody really needs to kill that Cenoc guy!
(Just my first reaction, everyone.) Sherry Thompson has done an incredible job of creating the most malicious, vile, hated villain you can imagine. Lord Cenoc, the brutal king of Latimus, wants even more power and will stop at nothing to get it. Meanwhile, one of his knights, a man by the name of Coris, begins to feel the pull of righteousness and rebels against his evil master in an effort to save three innocent people from becoming the king's next torture victims.
Out in the countryside, we find the enchanter Harone, Cara's love interest from the previous volume, and Cara's little brother, Sandy, the new Outworlder, seeking to discover what it is that they must do to defeat the evil in Latimus.
Earthbow has fantastic characters, a ton of climactic action, zombie animals and trees (kind of), and a very funny stoah creature named Khiva. I especially love how the separate characters and plotlines that Thompson starts her novel off with all naturally compliment and blend together as the story progresses.
There are also a number of spiritual lessons in Earthbow, notably, How does Satan use our own desires to work against and even control us? And, What does it mean to truly repent?
I have definitely become a fan of the Narentan Tumults and will eagerly anticipate the release of the next volume, tentatively titled, The Gryphon and the Basilisk.