Chamiel is a hidden gem. I am suprised at how unknown and unrecognized this book is in the Fantasy canon. First published in London, 1973 and released a year later in the States, the book was written by its equally obscure author, Edward Pearson, who mysteriously has seemed to disappear from the writing scene after this book was published. The front cover states, 'A magnificent epic in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien,' which becomes apparent halfway through its mere 143 pages. I'd also compare, contrast, and praise this book in relation to another 'epic' fantasy writer, who on the other hand is extremely well-known, C.S.Lewis. Both The Narnia Chronicles and Chamiel possess incredibly noteworthy and 'fantastic' Christian imaginings---The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, metaphorically, and Chamiel, rather directly. Perhaps, because of Pearson's direct style with its religious content and plot, the book unfortunately never caught on.
Simply, the main character of the story, Chamiel, as the book begins, is a young angel under Archangel Michael's apprenticeship. Most of the book takes place in a Heaven, a rolling, majestic, unspoiled earth. The story includes the rebellion of the Black Angel against God/part Creation Story/Original Sin.
Overall, I found the story to be very well-written, meaningful, and welcome in its portrayal of Heaven and characterizations. In fact, I really liked how Heaven was portrayed, which should be appreciated by many Fantasy readers as well as Nature enthusiasts.
Maybe the weakest part of this little epic in 143 pages is the beginning, where we find Chamiel on Earth about to begin narrating his story to a young boy (which lends a slightly juvenile tone in the first few pages)---but, (a) this was necessary for how the story is narrated by Chamiel, himself, and (b) David, the human boy, in retrospect, gives the story a dimension of time that helps and marks reference points. Soon into the book, any worry that I had disappeared...
The real meat of the book (as it should be) is in the middle, and I can best describe by pulling a quote from the book's back cover by C. Day Lewis,
"The writing is surely excellent; many passages have a vivid unearthliness....Exotic yet coherent imagining...bold and unusual."
I strongly agree with this quote, as I found the language and heavy visuals of Pearson's descriptions absolutely wonderful and compelling.
It may also be important to recognize the meaning behind his portrayal of Heaven (as Archangel Michael explains to Chamiel on p.70, 'Even Heaven can be troubled without end.'), the hard 'earthly' but fantastic terrain, and the trials of characters in the book. (It's not all roses in Heaven, necessarily).
My final words: I find this book, unique, expressive, and admirable. A true wonder. A fast and pleasant read. And a real bargain for the 20 cents (December 2008) I got Chamiel for at the last remaining used bookstore in my area.
About the Cover: The Pocket Book version cover with the illustration by Michael Gross is fantastic and fits the tone and visual assets of the author perfectly.