Michael D. Warden,
The Pearlsong Refounding #1:
Gideon's Dawn

(Barbour, 2003)

Gideon Dawning, assistant to the dean of geology, is handpicked to head a team investigating earthquake activity in one of many regions throughout the world for which earthquakes shouldn't occur. While investigating a tree (a species that doesn't normally grow in such a cold clime) at a mountain site, one of the unaccounted for earthquakes begins and sucks the protagonist down into the collapsing rock and dirt. When he wakes, dazed, Gideon is at the scene of a village in a strange land being attacked by men with solid black eyes, dressed in black and using a language he's never heard. After the ensuing massacre, which he barely survives, he is at turns greeted with wonder and skepticism. For Gideon was witnessed to sing up a Storm of Deliverance in his delirium that ended the massacre and killed the invaders -- a storm some say the words for which have been lost for ages, since the breaking of the Pearl, Guardian of Dei'lo. Some proclaim Gideon as their long-prophesied Redeemer. Others call him a fraud. Gideon accepts neither and wants only to find a way back home.

Thus begins the journey of a very unremarkable man. And here is where I was both at turns delighted and annoyed. The author is a very good writer. Maybe too good in some respects because his protagonist for much of the story is highly unlikeable, so much so that it sometimes hindered my progress through the book. Weeks went by before I could bring myself to pick it up and continue. I also had a hard time connecting with or caring about the supporting cast.

Thankfully, about halfway through, a life-changing event occurs that allows the protagonist to become more human-feeling. As he becomes more concerned about the people around him, the other characters have more life breathed into them as well.

I also had trouble suspending disbelief that ALL geological government and university agencies around the globe could successfully suppress awareness of massive geological upheavals killing tens of thousands of people. Are there no foreign correspondents or travel writers anymore? What about tourists? And if this is the explanation for Gideon's transport to a different world, why haven't others been transported, too?

On a brighter note there is the interesting dynamic of Dei'lo, words of the light and life, and Sa'lei, words of the dark and decay. Those who master one cannot master the other for they are forever opposed. Literally, the language one chooses with which to ally determines one's lot in life. For centuries the masters of Sa'lei have been ascendant so only scattered remnants remember Dei'lo, and none can recall the way it was before the breaking of the Pearl. Gideon is the first to be seen wielding Dei'lo power the likes of which hasn't been seen for ages. His coming brings turmoil, doubt and fear but also hope to a diminishing people as the meaning of the prophesies are examined and argued in every possible light. That he shares a name of the one responsible for the breaking of the Pearl (Gideon Truthslayer) adds to the fear and doubt -- while others call him their prophesied Redeemer.

This is my first introduction to Warden's work but it will not be my last as I was fully caught up with the story and characters by the end. It was slow going in the beginning, but if you can get past that it becomes a fine story. Now that the protragonist and supporting cast feel human, I've come to care about them enough to want to see the next stage.

- Rambles
written by Dana Fletcher
published 13 December 2003

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