Friday, February 9, 2018

Book Review: 'Restoring the Light' by Helen Bell

British author Helen Bell presents Book 2 of the llmean Quartet, an adventure series for young adults ages 11 – 18. There is no available biographical data on the author except a casual mention in acknowledgements that she began writing this series when she was age 16.
Authors who elect to write Fantasy novels run the risk of losing their readers in the quagmire of bizarre names for the characters and places. It is something that goes with the territory but learn those names and get used to the strange phrasings and places and soon the novel seeps into the psyche.

To illustrate this point, pause for a moment and share an early passage form this book: ‘Right now, Kerin had other worries. He might seem indestructible: he had survived drowning twice in the last three months, and had just masterminded breaking his brother Jastur out of Karn’s dungeons despite the intervention of Lemno Tekai, the most feared man in Ilmaen. On the rare occasions luck wasn’t with him, Kerin’s obsession with saving his brother had driven him to survive. But Jastur didn’t have the same lucky streak, it seemed. Cedas had told her of the state Kerin’s brother had been in when they’d got him out of his prison cell. That probably explained why, even though this plan would draw attention he’d rather not have, Kerin’s response to any objection had been: ‘Damn all that! My only concern is how Jastur fares.’

Helen aids the reader at book’s opening by listing all the characters form Book 1 and the characters we will meet in Book 2. It does help with spending enough time with these explanations so that reading is more facile. But since this is Book 2 of a Quartet, best to recap the first movement called SHADOWLESS: ‘Think how it would be if you could see the future...Now think again. Renia knows trouble is coming when she and her brother Vel pull a stranger from the surf, more dead than alive. Vel sees adventure ahead; but they have rescued a driven man who won’t abandon his duty whatever it costs. They face a powerful enemy willing to plunge a whole nation into chaos to gain revenge. Renia knows things won’t end well because she is a far-seer. And there’s nothing she can do to change what’s ahead.’

And so we are prepared for the extended adventures of characters we seem to know: ‘There's a moment coming, a moment both feared and craved. Do you run from it, or to it? Ilmaen’s true Crown, Jastur, is safe; but his rule is not yet restored. Kerin knows it will need far-seer Renia’s help; but he can’t let Jastur know that. To keep Renia safe he must hide her ability - even from his Crown. Lemno Tekai is on their heels, and Renia must warn Kerin that his relentless enemy is, like her, a far-seer. That means telling him not to trust her, when trust is all that binds them together. They don’t yet realise that Lemno has a new quarry…’

For young adults this realm is well known – think Game of Thrones, Hobbit, etc – and Helen’s writing is securely ensconced in this fantasy world and language. For that intended audience the book should become popular. Grady Harp, May 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.