Karen Hancock,
Light of Eidon
(Bethany House, 2003)

Karen Hancock combines high fantasy with Christian allegory in Light of Eidon, the first book in her Legends of the Guardian-King saga.

Although Abramm Kalladorne is a prince of Keriath, he has spent eight years since the age of 13 preparing to enter religious life as a Guardian of the Holy Flames of Eidon. (Eidon is the equivalent of God.) As the fifth son of the king of Keriath, he knows that he has little to no chance to achieve the throne; moreover, he does not want to be king. Abramm, whose religious name is Eldrin, wishes only to serve Eidon.

Eidon appears to have other plans for him, not to mention his religious mentor and his brothers who arrange for him to be kidnapped and sold into slavery. Trap Meridon, the captain of the Royal Guard, is also a victim of these machinations. While Abramm finds Trap's faith as a Terstan repugnant, he comes to appreciate the other man's company, and they become allies and friends. Ultimately, both become fighters in the Games that are the national pastime in Esurh, a country to the south, suitable preparation, as they learn, for their ultimate destinies.

Hancock packs the novel with action and intrigue, and she demonstrates a remarkable sense of story. Although it is difficult to feel sympathy initially for the sheltered, overly pious and faintly priggish Abramm, Hancock is very convincing in her depiction of Abramm's growth -- physical, emotional and spiritual -- in the face of his hardships. So too does Trap Meridon grow as a character -- one, in fact, that threatens to upstage the protagonist at times.

The allegorical elements mesh well with the plot and are not at all didactic. It becomes clear before long what the Terstans represent. I felt uncomfortable, however, with the implication that the Esurhites seem to represent Muslims and Muslim society. It struck me as unsubtle at the very least. My qualms did succumb to the twists and turns of her story, and I concede that some of the conventions of Islam were essential to elements of the plot.

Hancock's world building is a little shaky, but the sheer power of her storytelling carries the book past any rough spots. She also knows how to leaven the action with humor without undermining the seriousness of her story. Some might find the beginning a bit slow and even confusing, but the narrative picks up quickly and it is worth one's while to stick with it.

Whether read as an allegory or simply as fantasy, this fusion of the two genres is a captivating, pulse-pounding adventure. Hancock recognizes that telling a good story comes first, and everything falls into place after that. Bring on the next book!

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 21 February 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.