Keen: (adj) finely sharpened, as an edge; piercing or biting; and characterized by strength and distinctness of perception.
That is the word most apt to describe “Erra’s Throne, Column I,” the quick and quirky first installment of the new, nerdtastic YA series.
Written by James Carmichael, a Los Angeles based author from New York with a zest for video games, “Erra’s Throne” submerges its reader into the world of young gamers, complete with all the angst and latency of teen years, the language saturated by immediacy and sincerity.
Heroine Emmeline Kim, a Korean-American high school sophomore alienates herself by committing a massive gaming crime during a raid in her favorite MMO, Dominus. It is when she receives an anonymous invitation to a mysterious just released game that the door to a new adventure and whole new world opens -- one that includes a Babylonian god's plans to subjugate the world.
What makes “Erra’s Throne”, this alter to gamer culture so fascinating is its ability to illuminate the Morton’s Fork of the teen life and attitude, while simultaneously alluding to a specific kind of hope. The defiance is for kids both current and the inner-teens we've left behind. The hope makes this story human, makes it universal.
The audience re-experiences the apathy, the negotiations and the desire of a kid wanting to live in the moment, but is forced by loving, yet hovering parents to think about the future. With each interaction with these parents it becomes more apparent that Emmy’s rock is childhood and her hard place growing up.
This is her real world where the precarious nature of teenage existence is revealed. In her sanctuary, the fantasy of the game, Emmy experiences the challenge of loss. This loss leads to an opportunity for greatness. It brings to mind the adage, “when one door closes, another one opens”.
It takes a stoutness in faith to believe in possibilities after forfeiture, but Carmichael adroitly makes this Emmy’s defining trait. Wrapped in the magic of a gaming mistake, the maturity ushering her toward adulthood develops and she begins her real life transformation.
General readers with no background knowledge of gamer terminology may find “Erra’s Throne” a perplexing read. After becoming acquainted with a gamer lexicon the personality of the prose shines.
Emmy’s familial and social interactions illustrate (in language that is more adult than young) how awkward girls respond to boys, how they interpret and remember their parents’ advice, how they surprise themselves by clinging to family in times of crisis and how teens often define themselves.
Her identity is tied tightly to her ability to participate in the fantasy. She is loyal and dedicated to the life. Emmy’s self-actuality is made stronger and more complete by who she becomes within her video world.
There is still much to discover. How will Emmy’s craving for Kit Kats serve her, especially with her diabetes? Will this new journey be exactly what she needs to find middle ground with her parents? Will she triumph or will she, and the world she must save, worship at the foot of Erra's Throne?
Emmy uses gaming as an escape, a comfort but soon finds the real and fantastic colliding and both inescapable. The cliffhanger -- sly, efficacious -- ends the book the reader yearning for more.
Good thing Column II is already available for download.
Read it. Get your new school gaming on and raid with Emmy.