CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006
Indeed, it is a typical day in one of Patrick Carman's Elyon fantasies. His first Elyon novel, The Dark Hills Divide, was on the New York Times bestseller list for children. In it, 12-year-old Alexa Daley and her allies defeat a villain who schemed to bring down her city from within. Turns out that this situation was symptomatic of a greater threat. In Beyond the Valley of the Thorns, the miniature man, Yipes, summons Alexa to journey into the countryside to find something left to her by Thomas Worvold, founder of their settlement.
Young readers will enjoy many spine-tingling moments. At one point, Armon, a giant, swims from the ship through a gale to a cliff, guided by a hawk, with Alexa and a squirrel on his back. Stock fantasy figures from the second novel reappear in the third -- malevolent ogres, good giants, swarming bats, an evil giant (Victor Grindill), talking animals, and a magical stone.
This jocasta enables Alexa to understand the language of beasts. Who among us has not yearned at some time or other to be a Dr. Dolittle or a horse whisperer? The animals are easy to like, but this novel is no Watership Down. The creatures communicate primarily to serve Alexa. Only the bear verbalizes his rage over the decay of his forest.
Alexa not only communicates with animals but also can hear the voice of the god, Elyon, who leads her forward. In Beyond the Valley of the Thorns, we learned that, long ago, a seraph from Elyon's Tenth City wanted to rule the land of Elyon and enlisted a gang of his peers to morph into ogres and take it. The ogres' descendants, and the giant, Grindill, run a cruel regime on one corner of the island, and aspire to rule it all. Mature readers will recognize parallels with Milton's Paradise Lost. In The Tenth City, there are parallels with Christianity; for instance, Thomas Warvold says: "Elyon has only one hope for us, Alexa, that we would know he loves us." A dying leaf out of season is a sign that they must fight on. "Whatever happens to us," he continues, "we will not be forgotten in the end. He will remember us." The Tenth City, which exists beyond the mist, is a paradise, "not of this world", in which Alexa meets dead friends, including John Christopher, who gave her the magic stone.
The novel contains an interesting twist on the Christian stories of the resurrection. When Thomas Warvold dies (for real), Alexa thinks of the folks back home and says to her friends, "Let's not tell anyone about how Warvold came back from the dead... There are those who will say they saw him, but I won't say that. It will be as though his ghost joined us one last time. It will make his life and his death that much more of a mystery which is just what he would have wished."
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