The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.2 Cor. 4:4
Isaiah 14:13-14 is definitely applicable, too, but I won’t quote it here because it feels like a little bit of a thematic spoiler, to me.
The pursuit of truth is certainly a theme, as evidenced with the back cover’s attention-grabber about truth being dangerous. There are some clear allegorical elements positing an alternative truth—an interpretation that deviates from what the characters have been taught.This theme would make a good discussion topic, in conjunction with the book.
I’ve included more commentary on the allegory, in the Symbolism section, below.
What I Liked
I like that each of the characters, while differing in individual traits, demonstrates perseverance and (to varying extents) kindness. Holder, Therese, Rogan and Ivelle have experienced adversity and continue to battle for the survival of themselves and the ones they love. Ivelle was my favorite character. I liked seeing her character from different angles. She’s a street smart young lady with a sharp tongue, but she’s also incredibly loyal and nurturing. I also liked reading about her work in the shop/apothecary, along with Claudine and Borros.
I enjoyed the mounting mystery and the occasional suspenseful moments. The novel raises some questions, right from the start, and it’s also clear, early on, that there is some kind of unrest/turmoil in the kingdom. I liked that Carlin teases out the details, and backstories, gradually. And the ongoing revelation of conspiracy was fun, too.
It was both interesting and rewarding to see how the characters’ lives intersected (and how they interacted with one another). In particular, I enjoyed Ivelle and Rogan’s interactions, although I also appreciated the lifelong friendship between Holder and Rogan.
For a book with an assassin as a main character, this was very un-gruesome, which I very much appreciate. YA books can be very dark, but Carlin’s book is definitely not.
The allegorical elements were fun, and differed somewhat from other allegories I have read in that there’s not an automatic assumption that the allegorical elements are the truth. What I mean is that the characters are wrangling with whether or not to believe something that deviates from their prior understandings of the world. It’s not just an “oh! Now I see the light” moment. There seems to be more time for questioning and reflection in this book, and it seems very likely that these themes will be further delved into in the following two books.
Mild Spoilers Ahead
The people worship the stars, which I initially interpreted as just a random idol. However, on further reflection, when I think about prophecy that references 1/3 of the stars in heaven falling (Rev. 12:4)– and references to satan being a fallen angel– it takes on new meaning.
I liked the mysteries surrounding immortality, and the parallels with supernatural beings: both angelic and demonic. While I wouldn’t classify the book as “supernatural,” overall, the spiritual elements did introduce supernatural ones, as well.
Descriptions of Eligor also brought to mind the creation scene in Tolkien’s Silmarilion.
I recognize that this wasn’t the author’s intention, but I think that Eligor’s assumption of power can be interpreted as an illustration of colonization. We see an illegitimate domination and oppression, as well as conquering and, to some degree, forced assimilation. For me, this shed light on the parallel between Satan’s usurpation in the garden (and our subsequent slavery to sin) and forcibly taking a land from the people God gave it to — and in God’s name!
Of course, the theme of domination is present in many books and, again, this wasn’t the author’s intent, but, as a reader of Indigenous descent, this is something interesting that I observed.
I think other reviews may have mentioned this, but the synopsis was a bit misleading, as it implied that the story was mostly about Therese. While her storyline was an “attention grabber,” the struggle that is referenced isn’t really at the center of the plot.
Overall, the book felt a bit long for its content. The premise was great! I just felt that the story could have been told a bit faster. I also would have liked to see more compelling excerpts from Verum, as the book clearly elicited a powerful response.
There are several references to Therese’s decision to become an assassin, because the alternative would be for her to sell her body. In addition to the fact that both are hard lifestyles, this raises ethical questions about such a choice. This is a question I don’t feel equipped to answer.
In terms of content, I would recommend this book for young adult readers. I appreciated the allegorical elements and, although a bit slow for me at points, the book has a great cliffhanger ending.