Author: A.M. Tuomala
Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam
Publication Date: September 2010
Ebook: 250 Pages
For three hundred years, Erekos and Weigenland have fought to hold the borderland between the two nations. As the first storms of the flood season scour Erekos from the swamplands to the feet of the mountains, the Erekoi king discovers a dangerous new weapon that might be able to end the war: the witch Achane, who has raised her sister from the dead.
Achane and her sister, dragged apart on the very doorstep of a temple, must work to find each other again before the magic that binds them also kills them. In the process, Achane must overcome her grief—and the temptation of the king’s plans for Erekos.
Meanwhile, on the mountainous border between the two warring lands, the student Erlen finds his research interrupted by the encroaching conflict. Driven by a militant love for this neutral territory and its people, he determines to defend his newfound homeland at any cost.
In a land where gods walk the earth and myth manifests along the rivers and in the mountains, ordinary men and women must fight to make their own stories before the war unwrites them all.
Erekos is an epic fantasy, but one without elves or knights; it is a love story, but a story about the love of a woman for her sister, a scholar for his subjects, a king for his land and its people. It is a story about how stories are made, and how reality becomes legend in the telling. Above all, it is a story about humanity, and what makes us human.
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book: Candlemark & Gleam is a brand new independent publishing house, dedicated to digital books of the speculative fiction persuasion. When the publisher contacted us with a heartfelt review query for their launch title, I was determined to give this new indie company a try.
Erekos opens on a stormy night, with a desperate spell cast by a determined woman. The swamp witch Achane, unwilling to part with her deceased, beloved sister Shabane, determinedly draws the blood spell to return Shabane’s soul to her rotting body, and by strength of her love raises her sister from the dead as a zombi. Unwilling to speak, imprisoned in a rotting carcass, Shabane is not what Achane expected. Seeking help from other witches of Terichone, Achane and her shambling sister make their way to the high priestess to seek aid only to be intercepted by the passing King of Erekos and his retinue. The King, desperate to protect his people in an ongoing border war with Weigenland, seeks a witch skilled in raising the dead and steals Achane from her sister’s cold embrace. Meanwhile, in the mountains caught in between crossfire between the two nations is Erlen, a scholar that finds his quiet studies and routine so harshly interrupted by the war that threatens the safety of the mountainfolk – and determined not to fall, Erlen helps his adopted people outsmart and outmaneuver the Erekoi.
More of a novella than a full-fledged book, fantasy title Erekos marks indie digital publisher Candlemark & Gleam’s debut book. I very much liked the idea of Erekos, as certain aspects of the story, particularly the characters, are extremely compelling. The book is strongest, in my opinion, with the intense relationship between sisters Achane and Shabane – as they are torn apart from each other and face incredible hardship, the devotion that these two women, one living and one dead, have for each other is particularly touching. I loved that Tuomala wrote Erekos from a number of different perspectives, lending sympathy to each side of the story: the determined king and his cold queen, the separated sisters, the swamp witches, the scholar and the mountain people, and even gods themselves. It is not easy to find fault or a simple bad guy in Erekos, and combned with a generally well-conceived plot, this makes for a solid read.
That said, despite Erekos‘ shorter length, the book moves surprisingly slowly and is not without stumbles in its execution. I found the narrative style of the novel, in particular, to be grating – relying on constant asides to the reader and lackluster foreshadowing, I felt as though I was repeatedly being pulled out of the story and that the book never really built up any forward momentum. For example:
We will not be allowed to speak here about the great Mittler Holt where these men meet to shout at one another. Our voices would not fill the longhouse to its high rafters or touch the roof of shakes, but this is for the best. The holt-holders love their own voices too much to listen to us, anyway.
This is a matter of stylistic preference, sure to work with some folks. In small doses, I’m not averse to this sort of style – but when it’s a constant thing, each chapter of the book, I simply did not care for it. The only other issue I had with Erekos was how the plot was somewhat slower moving and unbalanced, spending far too much time on exposition and far too little time on the actual climactic battle.
And yet, for all that, I did finish the book and found myself decently entertained. Erekos is not the most deep or astounding fantasy debut I’ve ever read, but it has a solid concept and, unlike may of its ilk, manages to carry out a rather epic story in under 300 pages (no small feat!).
Notable Quotes/Parts: The first chapter is available online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: You can read more about Candlemark & Gleam and their upcoming titles on their website HERE. The publisher’s next title, about a broken superhero, is coming in January 2011. Here’s the info:
Can a shattered superhero help save humanity’s hope for a better world?
Broken figured she was done with heroics when she lost the ability to fly and fled the confinement of the Extrahuman Union. But then the world started to fall apart around her, and the mysterious Michael Forward entered her life, dangling the possibility of redemption and rebirth.
Michael Forward can see the future, but all he wants is to escape the destiny he has struggled against all his life. When the moment comes, though, he finds he can’t refuse. Now he needs the help of a homeless ex-superhero to save a baby who may be the key to humanity’s freedom.
Monica had a good life with her large family, until two strangers and a baby showed up at her door. Now her family is gone, her life is in ruins, and she’s on the run from the law.
In a time of spreading darkness, when paranoia and oppression have overtaken the world, can three unlikely allies preserve a small ray of hope for a better, brighter future?
Rating: 6 – Good
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