Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: Back from Chaos, a fantasy novel

Return from Chaos is a fitting title for Yvonne Hertzberger's fantasy novel.

With degrees in psychology and sociology, the author's interest in balance in life leads the action of the novel. The tension of the novel is the imbalance in nature--individual, social, and governmental--and how nature seeks to balance those imbalances.

Earth magic and earth energies have been disrupted. The "magic" of the novel is a seer who knows the disruptions of earth energy and sees how they must be set in harmony again. The author steps out of the category of "just another fantasy to be read, enjoyed, and put aside" by focusing on this earth magic--that individual action affects the world, and that the world affects the individual, that true harmony is both universal and specific.

The newly crowned king and his newly wed wife must find harmony in their relationship, for that harmony must extend to the kingdom. The king's assassin and a brutally raped attendant to the queen seek to overcome their experiences in order to find a means of expressing their love. Other characters seek their places in the new kingdom that has been forged on the hard anvil of battle.

The best example of nature seeking harmony is in the love relationship of two characters: Klast, the king's assassin, and Brensa, lady in waiting. Klast was abused as an orphaned child and has grown into a loyal yet emotionless assassin. Brensa is violently raped during the aftermath of a war. The author devotes a significant portion of the novel to chronicling how these individuals can find and exhibit love--both emotionally and physically. She details how emotional stress is made manifest in the physiology, and how that can lead a woman to not be able to physically express her love with a man. She details how physical abuse can manifest in the emotions, leading to a man not being able to express the tender giving of love. These individual conflicts are part of the "earth magic" that must be brought to harmony in the novel.

A multiple third person point of view presents the reader an ensemble of main characters, from servants to royalty, and then follows their efforts to come back from the chaos of disfiguring stresses and experiences to find harmony. The novel reads quickly, almost as a narrative history, due to the emphasis on a handful of couples, the main characters. One could say this is both the novel's strength and weakness. Moving from one character to another diffuses the connection to the characters, yet that panoramic perspective also creates an expanded vision of the events of the story. We witness the lives of people living in interesting times, as the saying goes.

War, civil strife, plague--these are the background for the novel Back from Chaos. I found the novel to be a quick read, perhaps because of the panoramic style of the storytelling. It wasn't until I had finished the book that I realized the unusual and defining qualities of the novel. War, death, the individual brutalities of child abuse and rape--the honest and human assessment of these disharmonies in outer nature and our inner nature make this book different than many novels of the fantasy genre.

If you want a quick read of a fantasy novel, Back from Chaos will provide you that. Don't be surprised, though, if after finishing the novel, you find yourself thinking about its very human challenges. How do we treat one another with dignity and respect? How do we create harmony in our individual lives and radiate that harmony into the greater world?

Author Yvonne Hertzberger has asked that the Kindle edition published by herself be purchased--and not the iUniverse edition. Links provided in this review are to the Hertzberger edition.


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