Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taerith Book Review


Taerith ~By Rachel Star Thompson

First of all, I generally don’t like fantasy. And Taerith is fantasy. Except that, it doesn’t seem like it. Geographically and historically, yes, it is fantasy. The fact the God is shown as Deus, the Only-Wise, makes it fantasy. And of course, the unicorn… even though I’ve never been totally convinced that unicorns weren’t real anyway. :) So, it is fantasy. But it is real. And beautiful. I love the imagery surrounding Deus. Psalm 91 is my favorite psalm, and the feathers and wings that fill the pages which speak of Deus are perfect. The story itself draws you in, as you get to know each person in it.

Taerith is the second book of nine in a collection, The Romany Epistles. I love the idea behind The Romany Epistles: nine siblings, banished from home and from each other, fighting to survive in a world that does not want them. Each story is written by a different author, and each sibling finds an adventure all their own, although each one is similar enough to the others that you can tell they are siblings! The prologue to each sibling’s story is very cool, because you see each one’s response to the shock the begins the book. They all start the same:

It was evening. The sun was beginning to sink behind the trees of Braedoch Forest, throwing its leafy depths into shadow. It was early spring and the forest was still newborn; winter’s chill could yet be felt in the air at night.
On the eastern edge of the forest, the nine children of Isaak Romany were gathering together.
Their home was a small house of stone, composed of three circular chambers. In the central chamber a fire burned slowly, varying light dancing on the face of a tall man in a dark cloak. He waited for the nine to gather. His face seemed set in granite, as always; no hint of emotion, no whisper of affection for the children he had raised. He, Maeron Duard, was their guardian, nothing more. They did not care for him either. Though they had grown up in the house, they often chose to stay apart from it: they wandered the forest, worked in the woodshop, climbed the small mountains that overlooked their home in the north. They were not like others. Their life had been one of isolation. They knew weaponry and woodcraft, but little of humanity. They cared for each other and yet spent much of their time in solitude.
Their guardian was afraid of them. Once the clan of Romany had been strong and numerous. Duard’s ancestors, druids and powerful, vengeful men, had cursed the clan nearly a century ago. In the succeeding generations, hardship, famine, and war had plagued them–helped along by the druids. At last only Isaak Romany and his wife were left. They took their children to Braedoch and tried to live with them there. But Isaak was a powerful man of great personal force, and the few remaining druids feared that he would father a new beginning for the clan. They sent Duard to kill him. And he did. He killed Isaak and his wife, but could see nothing to fear in the children… behind his face of stone there was perhaps a heart, for he kept them alive, and raised them.
But he feared them now. Alone, he thought, they could be no threat. But as long as they stayed together, the clan Romany might again arise.

Then each story takes off, showing who these siblings, who love both solitude and each other, truly are. I picked Taerith to review because it was the first one I read and one of my favorites. Although only the first draft is available to read, it is so well-written that I have actually read it more than once. (Which is pretty good for a rough draft on a website and me!)
Taerith Romany’s story begins six months after banishment, when he falls in with a band of traveling showmen. They are on their way to perform for a king’s wedding, and along the way, they rescue a girl from robbers. Who she really is, and who she becomes to Taerith, drives the rest of the book. Longing to return home with his siblings, yet feeling he must stay in this new country, Taerith grows as he learns to listen to Dues’s voice and obey, no matter how hard the task before him.

Some things that struck me about the story: The characters (I hate using that word about books I like - these people are much too real to be characters!) seemed alive and made you care about them. At first I was surprised to find Taerith unwilling to kill men in war, since that idea generally does not even enter tales of warriors, even if they are also poets. But once I was used to the idea, the value he placed on human life only made me like Taerith more. The care he shows for his siblings and to all those weaker than himself was perfect. I loved Mirian, a young slave girl whose past is never fully revealed. As she learns to use her strength for good, and to love people again, her barely concealed fire as she is forced to serve those who have killed her parents and stolen her throne makes her intriguing and inspiring. The imagery in the book (I usually skip all descriptions) was so strong you could see exactly what was happening. The earth beneath Taerith's feet sank as he crept over it, the boggy reek of the mud rising to meet the close darkness of branches that hung down from old, spindle-rooted, thick-trunked trees; dripping long strands of black leaves. He had gone with Kardas and the others north from the castle, plunging into thick forest over ground that sank lower and lower until it became an alien world of water and wood, haunt of creatures that rooted and wallowed and showed themselves but rarely; the haunt, too, of stranger, more dangerous things: of unicorns, and nightmares. Even when skimming it, I could get the impression of where people were and what they looked like. Dues’s involvement in the story was reminiscent of the Old Testament, including a prophet like Elijah, who appears and disappears throughout the story.

The first time I read it, the prophets and visions bothered me a little, maybe because I was expecting it to be less of a fantasy than it was. Reading it as a fantasy, and seeing parallels with the Old Testament caused it to make more sense, and then I enjoyed it more. Taerith’s dislike of hunting seemed a little strange for someone raised as a hunter, but it did fit in with his personality well. I think maybe I just found it odd because it did not seem like most guys I know! :) Some things, like Borden’s fight with ?himself? seemed a little confusing. Of course, since it is a rough draft, it is not as polished as it hopefully will be someday.

I enjoyed it, and if you like fantasy a little bit, I think you will enjoy it as well. If you have a few hours to spend on the computer, you can begin at:
http://taerith-romany.blogspot.com/2006_08_01_archive.html

4 thoughts shared:

Jessica said...

Sounds like a fascinating story I'll have to check it out. Snow always make me hungry for books. I want to light a candle curl up in bed with a good book turn on some soft music and read, read, read, read, read.

Lovely art work by the way tell which ever younger brother did it. He did a wonderful job.

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Thanks for doing this review, Katherine! I'm so glad you enjoyed Taerith and that it made you think about the allegorical elements. It would definitely throw you off if you weren't expecting fantasy at first ;). You did a great job with this!

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Oh, and by the way, Taerith can also be found at www.rachelstarrthomson.com/books/taerith-a-novel . It's a bit easier to read there.

Katherine Sophia said...

http://www.rachelstarrthomson.com/2009/10/a-reader-review-of-taerith/

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