Friday, November 6, 2009

Worlds Unseen

Title: Worlds Unseen

Series: The Seventh World Trilogy

Author: Rachel Starr Thomson

Genre: YA (13-16) Fantasy

Excerpt from “Prologue” of Worlds Unseen:

The house was full of the little noises of life. A bright fire crackled in the hearth, and over it the contents of a small iron pot hissed and bubbled. Mary’s rocking chair creaked as her deft fingers wove a world in cross-stitch, visions of sunset and starlight. A mourning dove, tucked away in a nest in the corner of the stone window ledge, cooed softly.

Mary did not look up when a shadow fell across the picture in her hand. Through her eyelashes she saw a tall, dark-cloaked form with a gleaming knife in its hand. For a tenth of a second Mary’s fingers faltered; she regained herself, and continued to sew. She bent her head closer to the cross-stitch and her chestnut hair fell over her shoulder.

“So you’ve come,” she said, her voice perfectly level.

The cloaked figure’s voice dripped with venom. “You expected me?”

The creak of the rocking chair filled the momentary silence, and the fire crackled. The pot was near to boiling over.

“I knew you would keep your promise,” Mary said. “Though you have been much longer than I expected. And even now you are waiting.”

The tall figure sneered. “Where is your fool of a husband?”

Mary said faintly, “He is coming.”

Outside, the cooing of the dove had ceased.

The Craft: Worlds Unseen is definitely a mixed bag when it comes to the craft.

At the macro level, the world is unique without overwhelming detail, while colorful and likeable characters fill the stage. The pacing overall builds and releases at all the right places. The premise mixes allegory, mythology, and fairy-tale elements in a style reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, without trying to duplicate his work.

However, at the scene level, trouble brews. Long sections of character monologues and the tendency to tell rather than show diffuse the tension the plot works so hard to build. Point of view jumps and short scenes (or longer scenes largely padded with backstory and internal monologues) chop up the rhythm. Certain subplots and actions with Maggie (the protagonist) felt out-of-place, especially for the force for motivation given them, from a failure of proper set up.

The result is a story that I long to dig into, but where traction is hard to find.

The Content: The content of Worlds Unseen is the greater strength. While there are allegorical elements, this is not an allegory and those elements never overwhelm the story. Rather, they give us a glimpse into the unseen of this world and a fresh view of the relationship between God and man, while intertwining themes of courage, God’s Sovereignty, identity, and risk-taking against terrible odds.

Other content notes—There is the typical violence level for this type of story, such as in sword fights and other combat. They are described, but with minimum detail. No language problems, and the romance elements are kept very chaste. Minimal amounts of magical elements, most on the side of evil; the supernatural on good’s side are seen as gifts and are not controllable by the ones who have them, like those supernaturally gifted by God in the Bible.

Summary: If Mrs. Thomson could have mastered the craft at scene level, this story would have improved three times over. As it is, Worlds Unseen is a gem in the rough. Though not worth everyone’s time, avid readers of Christian fantasy may find this a delightful tale to indulge in.

Rating: Craft—2, Content—4, Overall—3.4 out of 5 stars

Find Worlds Unseen and other safe fantasy & science-fiction at my Amazon affilate bookstore, Words of Whimsy.

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