Two friends embark on an adventure to save their family and their world in this Christian fantasy.
Noni and Beeheart, two adolescent Gomis, have lived their whole lives in the quiet village of Gratville in Inod, far away from the dangerous lands of Sur. Though there are rumors of an encroaching threat from the evil Surlis, stirrings of discord already exist between the small, peaceful Gomis and the larger, bureaucratic Krochits. People have started mysteriously disappearing, including Noni’s parents and Beeheart’s mother, but the friends aren’t moved to act until the Surli kidnap Beeheart’s sister, Ranni. To save her, the boys embark on a journey that takes them far from home, where they discover the truth of the nefarious plot: The Surli want to take Inod and its plentiful resources for themselves. Standing in the Surlis’ way are the just, godlike being Ameno and his followers, the only ones who can end the invasion for good. What started for Noni and Beeheart as a simple quest becomes a mission to save the world. Novelist Beutel (Flora’s Story, 2014) clearly found inspiration for this novel in the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The setup of the epic journey and a number of action scenes (including pursuits, a capture and an escape) are strong. However, they are slightly derivative. Problems also arise in the novel’s unnatural dialogue (“A couple of years ago, my father disappeared mysteriously….This made me very sad, since he was the only parent I ever knew and we were very close”), flat characterization, and worldbuilding that piles on information but lacks imagination; for example, many fantastical creatures are barely altered from their real-world equivalents. There are also some uncomfortably stitched-in Christian elements, which appear as constant Biblical quotes and extended lectures, although the messages of love and responsibility are positive ones. The addition of a Jesus analogue in the all-powerful Ameno, though, creates story problems, as it becomes easy for readers to wonder why he doesn’t just fix everything with a wave of his hand.
Despite some nice moments of suspense and adventure, this underdeveloped novel is hampered by clunky prose, a sketchily drawn world and didactic religious lessons.