While being attacked by a large dog, Kiera and her nephew, Alex, are suddenly and mysteriously transported to an alternate Alaska, populated by mages...moreWhile being attacked by a large dog, Kiera and her nephew, Alex, are suddenly and mysteriously transported to an alternate Alaska, populated by mages and shapeshifters. In the process of trying to find her way back to her own Alaska, Kiera learns much about herself. The similarities between this theme and that of The Wizard of Oz struck me several times as I read Lauri J. Owen’s Fallen Embers. It could have been an effective fable or parable if it had been written as such. Instead, it is basically certain elements of a novel, thrown against the framework of a moral treatise on slavery, hoping that some might stick.
A tattoo that Kiera gets at the beginning of the book and the presence of Alex’s father in the alternate Alaska seem to be significant to the story line, but each is flung into the plot at some point, and then either glossed over or completely ignored for the remainder of the book. The only character who has any personality is Kiera, and she is so inconsistent that, were she real, it would be hard to spend more than five minutes in a room with her. The rest of the characters are no more than props. The most thoroughly developed feature of the book is the system of magic that Kiera finds herself able to manipulate, but one would need some kind of star chart to follow it. The story leads us to what should be a climactic event, only to snatch it from view when Kiera is wounded and falls unconscious as the event commences. Regaining consciousness a few days later, Kiera is repeatedly stalled for several days – and many, many pages – when she asks about the outcome of the event. I suppose the intent here is to build suspense about the surprise ending to the book, but it is quickly clear to anyone who has read the book to this point what that surprise is.(less)
Tree of Life begins as a fantasy somewhat reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. Adventure is added to the fantasy when the protagonist, Deacon, sets o...moreTree of Life begins as a fantasy somewhat reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. Adventure is added to the fantasy when the protagonist, Deacon, sets off on a single-minded quest for vengeance against those whom he perceives have harmed him and taken his childhood from him, either directly or by their failure to protect him. He reluctantly allows his two cousins to accompany him on his journey and begins to understand - if not fully appreciate - the importance of having others to stand alongside one in the face of hardship and danger. The introduction of Magenta transforms the story to a romance with the adventure as a backdrop until the climactic final chapters. This being Part I of the story, there remain several issues to be resolved in the second part.
Daniels' characters are very well-wrought. They're easy to visualize and their personalities are developed in ways that elicit responses similar to those one would have to meeting a flesh-and-blood person. Although my reaction to Deacon was ambiguous and sometimes contradictory, this was appropriate because throughout the story, Deacon is generally unsure himself of who he is and of who he's becoming. I look forward to finding out in Part II who he finally becomes and how he arrives at that destination.(less)