This fantasy debut sees a young man suffer separation from his family and enslavement, yet he remains hopeful with the guidance of an otherworldly entity.
Fourteen-year-old Eloy and his family live in a village on the savanna. While adulthood fast approaches, he one day watches his favorite group of cats in the nearby wild. When a rival pack of felines slaughters the cats he loves, Eloy longs for the safety and warmth of home. His father later sends him and his sister, 9-year-old Francena, to acquire tallow from Kalb, a neighbor who keeps livestock. Kalb offers the tallow for free and tells Eloy that he and his family need to pack up and leave the village immediately. On the way home, Eloy runs into Totten, the local drunk. Yet Totten is cleareyed and able to stand up straight. He says, “I may look like Totten, but I’m not. I’m simply using his body. You can call me Amicus.” The being recommends that Eloy’s family travel south and gives him a flawless, polished black stone with a hole in its center. Amicus says the stone is a key and that wealth awaits him. When savage marauders attack the village, Eloy and his family flee. Heading south, however, lands them in the clutches of slavers who make Eloy’s parents choose between their children’s freedom and their own lives. In this savage, lyrical series opener, Timmins places strong characters in nightmarish situations, all the better to ensnare readers. Her prose often celebrates the primal connection between people and the land. After Eloy and his friend Corwin escape enslavement and a brutal battle, they find a forest that “swallowed them into a place of cradled life. It contrasted everything they had experienced in a nourishing and deeply necessary way.” Timmins’ use of fantasy elements, like telepathy and monstrous raiders, is effectively conservative. Heart and philosophy buoy this dark tale, in which the hero is reminded that “there is a lot of strength in being humble,” and audiences experience the epic in a relatively slim volume.
A hero’s first adventure turns out to be a grand and satisfying one.