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Monday, 8 September 2014

Another 5 Star Review for Joinings.

5.0 out of 5 stars Religious Dystopia v Enlightenment, 7 Sep 2014
By 
Linda Acaster (Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Joinings (A Seared Sky Book 1) (Kindle Edition)

Although this novel fits firmly into the Epic Fantasy subgenre, it would be an underestimation to view this first book as a mere quest story to right wrongs. It is an examination of dogma and believers of a religion, the Followers of Ytraa, physically split into three many generations before the opening of the trilogy. In ‘Joinings’ readers experience only two – those of the land of Muhnilahm ruled by a priesthood, and the land of Litkala ruled by a royal house. Yet for all their extolled differences and mutual mistrust they are reflections of the same, societies built on sex - publicly orchestrated and privately profligate - with emotional love, devotion and self-sacrifice funnelled only towards the fuelling of the dogma.

It is the ‘why?’ that I found fascinating. What had occurred in the far past to bring this about? Certainly the approaching Skyfire, with its lore of burning all unbelievers, is at its root. Had a group of survivors of a natural disaster instigated a method of rapid repopulation – at all costs? Certainly there are no old, or sick, or malformed, or merely ‘ugly’. Eugenics? There is mention on Muhnilahm of ‘The Point’, a desolate area where unfortunates are banished, or escape to rather than face a tortured death in the name of the religion. Yet within the society there are hardly any children to be seen or, for all the constant euphemistically-termed ‘frowking’, no pregnant women, and the Virgin Gifts, female despite the vaunted equality of the sexes, are exalted in the creed as an exchange of blood lines.

It is the quest to exchange Virgin Gifts – and to secure the release of one fraudulently chosen – that journeys the main groups of characters through lands of unbelievers and, because of these ongoing experiences, the tenets of their own religious dogma. Hypocrisy is emphasised early on as the fanatic Aglydron attempts to ‘free’ an exploited young woman by replacing her people’s indoctrination with his own without realising what he's doing.

Into this mix are dripped the personal stories, each with its own layered secrets: Tumalind, chosen falsely as a Virgin Gift who holds a striking likeness to the daughter of the High Priest; the high priest’s son and rebel leader, Aklon, an escapee on pain of death for refusing to embrace and promote the secrets of Ytraa when its history was revealed to him; Feldrark, son of the royal house, who professes undying love to gain the high priest's daughter, Jodisa, while hiding his true reasons. Some walk with veiled intellect, others with that veil gradually being stripped away by the experiences encountered. As the groups move into Book 2, and the mind-talkers manipulate and are manipulated, this layered tale promises much. Enjoy.
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