A novel about a young man’s journey to a fantastic place, with real-world consequences for himself and his family.
With an almost chant-like cadence, Deepan renders the psychological tensions in the Patel household via the careful descriptions given by the father of 17-year-old Jake, descriptions that illuminate the many movements and evasive gestures that structure his relationship to his son. The emotional fire that fuels this father-son bond grows from a wife-mother dying of cancer, and from this metastasis spread many tendrils of grief, blame, desperation and resentment. It’s a strikingly contemporary and unorthodox prologue to a novel that the author eventually populates with sorcerers, witches, spells and mystical lands. It seems initially jarring, but this down-to-earth pathos and mature psychological detail gives the phantasmagoric portions of the book additional heft and material dimension. Jake’s father informs the reader directly that this is the story of his son and himself, and that, whatever follows, nothing will be the same for anyone involved. Jake takes the brunt of the drama as he finds his way, by aid of Ureth the witch, to Tiramonde, a fantastic land whose destiny is intertwined with his where he embarks on a quest to reverse his mother’s fate with the restorative fruit of the Dendragon Tree. Though parallel destinies and plucky chosen ones are standard fare for young-adult fantasy, the moral conundrums that compound on Jake’s shoulders set this novel apart. He searches for the fruit of the Dendragon Tree, but Jake must also contend with legends that foretell the release of an ancient, destructive dragon should he dare pluck the tree’s fruit—is his mother’s life worth that of an entire world? Eventually Jake’s father journeys to Tiramonde to retrieve his son, but that only increases the moral murkiness of Jake’s decisions. Deepan’s prose is elegant and clear, even when Jake’s proper course of action is not, and readers will get caught up in the struggles of characters with such depth and heart. If this fantasy novel were only about a troubled kingdom in need of its lost crystal, or some other well-worn trope, it would probably still have been entertaining. But the work deftly allegorizes the hero’s journey into a story about family, death and forgiveness, setting it apart as a genuine curiosity and affirming read for fantasy fans.
A unique, daring fantasy more interested in morality than the dazzle of other worlds.