"There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now." - Eugene O'Neill
This quote from Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten" so aptly describes the journey on which author Marian Allen takes the reader.
This fantasy tale starts in media res and works its way both forward and backward to tell the tale. The story starts with a two visits to a witchwoman, ten years apart. A lower mid-level bureaucrat is desperate to clear his conscience. His confession immediately throws the reader into the middle of mystery almost too horrible to contemplate.
Allen smoothly transitions between scenes and often a couple of chapters have passed before you realize you have moved forward or backward in time. The author makes excellent use of the settings four divine animals (Unicorn, Phoenix, Dragon, and Tortoise) adding layers to the story that at times gives it the feel of a fable or parable. It is interesting to note that this almost directly corresponds with the divine animals in Chinese mythology only differing to replace the white tiger with the unicorn. Given the cover of the book, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this wasn't happenstance.
The characters that Allen creates are complex creatures who each invoke multiple emotions in the reader. The only character that I did not identify with or feel any empathy for was Elsie's father Darcy. Even her villains evoked empathy or pity in me at one time or another. Allen has created an interesting society revolving around matriarchy, for which I must applaud Allen as it has only been successfully implemented a handful of times in modern literature.
My one drawback to the book was that it ended almost too soon and on a cliffhanger. Don't get me wrong. I am stoked to read the next book in the series. I was just so engrossed in the story that when it ended, it felt so abrupt to me. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I remember feeling the same way after reading Terry Brook's "Scions of Shannara" (of course I didn't realize when reading SoS that it was the first book in a four book series...).
Allen illustrates a grassroots type rebellion that is starting to bubble up from the surface in multiple places. She takes you inside the minds of all the major and minor players on both sides of what surely will be an uprising in book 2 or 3. She keeps you invested and entertained by masterfully weaving the threads of the stories and the threads of time together.
- Richard Abbott’s interview with Marian Allen
- Richard Abbott’s review of “The Fall of Onagros” by Marian Allen
- Marian’s guest post about mythical creatures on Jo Robinson’s blog
- The Bookworm’s review of “Force of Habit”
- The Bookworm’s interview with Marian Allen
- Marian’s guest post on The Bookworm’s Fancy on loving reading
- Marian Allen’s Website
Erin Eymard aka The Bookworm has been an Examiner since May 2013. She also has her own book blog, The Bookworm's Fancy, and contributes to The New Podler Review of Books. For more updates, subscribe to the New Orleans Book Examiner.