Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wednesday Review: The Reluctant Prophet

Title: The Reluctant Prophet
Author: Gillian O’Rourke
Publisher: Kristell Ink
Publication date: 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Price: Kindle $4.99, Paperback $15.29
Where to purchase: Amazon
Reviewer: Cybelle Greenlaw

Book description:
There's none so blind as she who can see . . . Esther is blessed, and cursed, with a rare gift: the ability to see the fates of those around her. But when she escapes her peasant upbringing to become a priestess of the Order, she begins to realise how valuable her ability is among the power-hungry nobility, and what they are willing to do to possess it. Haunted by the dark man of her father's warnings, and unable to see her own destiny, Esther is betrayed by those sworn to protect her. With eyes newly open to the harsh realities of her world, she embarks on a path that diverges from the plan the Gods have laid out. Now she must choose between sacrificing her own heart's blood, and risking a future that will turn the lands against each other in bloody war. The Reluctant Prophet is the story of one woman who holds the fate of the world in her hands, when all she wishes for is a glimpse of her own happiness.

Hi, Cybelle here again. This week I read Gillian O'Rourke's The Reluctant Prophet. The story is told in the first person by Esther, a young priestess who struggles with her prophetic gift and faith. The book is well-written overall and very engaging. O'Rourke creates vivid descriptions of the places in Esther's world, and the supporting characters are believable. It is a page turner, but I found certain elements of the book problematic.
The setting is a fantastic, medieval world, where most people worship a trinity of gods, Tyrus, Lo and Era, who are depicted with animal heads and can be male or female. Esther sees them all as female, basically ranging in age from young woman/warrior to crone. The priestesses are initiated through a series of painful ordeals and are generally held in high-esteem, but elite members of the Order despise Esther's peasant origins and find ways of abusing her and her gift. For me, the religion and religious order O'Rourke creates are the least credible aspects of the story. Generally, when a culture worships gods with animal characteristics (or changing sexual identity), it has clear reasons for doing so. Animals and their attributes did not feature prominently in the story, and I was left wondering what was so special about wolves, cats and owls that the deities would be represented in those forms. Going beyond the physical characteristics of the gods, the religious beliefs of the people seemed exceptionally Catholic, and the abuses perpetrated by corrupt members of the Order clearly reflected current criticism of the church. At certain points, I felt like I was reading a subtle criticism of the Church.

Regarding style, there were also a few problems. Much of Esther's internal dialog was mirrored in later action/conversation, which slowed the pace a little. Occasionally, in sections of dialog, it was difficult to tell who was speaking. This was partially because some of the characters had similar speech patterns, but a few dialog tags would have been helpful, too.

Despite my criticism, this book was an interesting read, and I think it would be especially popular with teens. The main characters are young, vibrant, and easy to love, and their struggles are common to many.

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