Van Til Tool

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Extreme Sorcery And Extreme Salvation:

Harone-The-Awaited Confronts The Shadow Lords

A review of

Sherry Thompson Earthbow, The Second of the Narentan Tumults, Volume I
(Grayson, GA: Gryphonwood Press, 2010)
$9.99 254 pp ISBN: 978-0-9825087-3-2

Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz

I ended my review of the first Narentan volume Seabird by noting that its feisty character Cara would be a hard act to follow. So I began reading the second volume wondering how the author would meet the challenge: who would be the fascinating new character to take Cara's place?

What a let-down!! First of all, the new transportee from Earth is none other than Cara's dull brother Sandy, whose Narenta moniker is Xander. What a laugh! Xander-the-Not-So-Great aka Sand-The-Bland! Actually, though, the laugh is on me for making the assumption I did. The author, of course, is not obliged to tell us the story we may be expecting to read!

So, what is the story here? On the surface it first appears to be a same-old-same-old tale of a wicked disgusting man conquering and tyrannizing a people. What is quite different in this story is that the misdeeds of this tyrant, Cenoc, are actually only the visible effects of the activity of a super-powerful "Shadow Lord", Mexat, who is physically imprisoned inside a mountain but who nonetheless is able to exert spiritual forces which are being directed at controlling Cenoc, who is unaware that he is gradually being enslaved by Mexat.

Thompson's portrayal of Mexat is quite vivid. She takes you inside his mind where you see him planning his conquests and gloating as he gains ever more control over Cenoc, and you see him becoming enraged at those who thwart him. This portrayal of the mind of Mexat is reminiscent of the portrayals of the minds of the demons in in C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. And Thompson's revelation of Mexat as the one behind Cenoc's actions is analogous to Lewis's revelation in That Hideous Strength that the Head of N.I.C.E. was actually a demon.

Thompson's story also deals with good people being tempted to use the wrong means of fighting evil. The young knight Coris wishes to fight Cenoc's evils but is tripped up by his revengeful spirit. Coris refuses to listen to counsel, so that he ends up in an extreme sword fight with Cenoc's bully boy Beroc, which (almost ?) kills him.

The central character in Earthbow Vol. I, Harone-The-Awaited, faces a different temptation -- the urge to run away from his task due to his great fear of Mexat. Harone conquers this temptation when he remembers what Cara told him as she was about to perform her scary task in Seabird: that although she did not look scared, she was very frightened, but that did not matter because she was going to accomplish her mission in spite of it! Harone also remembers this lesson: "I learned from her, the important thing in the long run is what you do, not how you feel while doing it. Which is fortunate. I'm terrified."

Although Cara herself is not a character in Earthbow, it was her influence upon Harone which enabled him to engage in his extreme sorcery battle with Mexat and to proceed from there to what perhaps was an even more remarkable achievement, the extreme salvation which climaxes Volume I.

The progression of the "extreme sports" feats in this story is interesting. A good question for a Professor to ask on an exam would be this: "Discuss the progression from the extreme sword fight to the extreme sorcery to the extreme salvation, and what this tells you of the artistry of the author".

We also need to look at the subject of the artistry of the author pertaining to how she handles Cara in the story under review here. One of the most important principles of creativity is that a good artist never repeats himself. Because (1). Cara was such an attractive character
in Seabird, and because (2). there is great sadness in the hearts of the readers at her exit from the Narentan scene at the end of that story (see e.g. the lament of Michael Dunne on the rear jacket of the book), it is remarkable that the author has not succumbed to the temptation of producing a Cara 2 or a Return of Cara as the sequel. Nor did she, as I naively assumed she would, create a new Cara, i.e. a character worthy of following in her train.

No! Thompson followed the more sophisticated route by having Cara live on in the heart and life of Harone, thereby enabling him to do even greater works than she did. In the usual sense of the term, Cara is not a character in the present story. But she is a character here by means of the principle of Co-inherence. Since she, in the manner noted above, was "in" Harone, she, in that sense, could be considered a character here. Another way of putting it is that when Harone is remembering Cara's words, this is the book version of a "cameo" appearance in film.

Now a word about the meaning of Volume I. Earthbow consists of four books plus an epilogue. Volume I is books 1 & 2. Volume II will be books 3 & 4 plus the epilogue.

We will need to wait for Volume II to discover what Sandy's role is. All that Alphesis has revealed in Volume I is that Sandy is to prepare for his mission by learning "the ways of the Wildfolk and the Greenfolk", which he begins to do in Volume I. At first blush it would appear that their work will be a mammoth task. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. We have already learned that!! After all, Cara began by refusing her mission, and Harone at first hated Cara. So, maybe there is hope for Sandy afterall! We will just have to wait for Volume II to find out.

And, I guess by now we should know Sherry Thompson well enough that we should not be surprised if we are suprised by her story in Volume II !

June 7, 2010
Forrest W. Schultz

I was a bit late in reviewing the first book in the Narentan Series, "Seabird", but I could not do so any sooner because I just discovered it. I am going to the second extreme on the review above. This book is hot off the press and I am one of its first readers. I am even more excited about Thompson now, as I believe you will note from the review. I would strongly encourage any one interested in good fantasy to check out Thompson. My intention is to read and review the rest of the books in the series as soon as they are published.

AND, for any of you who do read her books, let me know what you think. If you do not want to leave a comment here, you can email me at



  • At Tuesday, June 08, 2010, Blogger UtM, SherryT said…

    Hi, Forrest!
    What an interesting review of Earthbow Volume 1. Thanks!

    I think I caught you by surprise with the ensemble character casting in Earthbow. In most of Lewis's Narnia series, the Pevensie children or other Earthlings are the main characters in the stories. The greatest exception to that pattern is The Horse & His Boy. Prince Caspian and The Final Battle have part of their focus on the Narnian characters & part of their focus on the Earth characters.

    To the extent that I've planned out everything, Seabird will be the -only- book told in one POV from the Outworlder's perspective. That being the case, you will never run into another Cara. I'm sorry; however, I don't like doing the same thing twice.

    I hope, however, that you will become entranced with the Narentan Harones, Coris's, Teriks, and Abdis's.

    Not to worry: In Earthbow Volume 2, Xander will have a bigger role to play than in vol.1. Naturally, that means he's about to get into a loadful of trouble.
    But then, so is everyone else. After all, just in case you've forgotten about them, the Pannian nation of sorcerers will not be idly twiddling their ...uh... tentacles while Harone & his friends go head to head against Cenoc/Mexat.

  • At Wednesday, June 09, 2010, Blogger Xanthorpe said…

    Three cheers for Sherry!

    And a hearty, "Great Review!" for Forrest. Any review that can widen the audience for the Narentan Tumults is a good thing.

    Well thought out and well written, this review should whet the appetite of any serious fantasy reader.


  • At Thursday, June 17, 2010, Blogger Kristy said…

    Fabulous review, Forrest!


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