on Dec. 9, 2012 :
This is a review of two books: Children of the Halo by E. J. Spurrell and Counterpoint to Chaos by Robert Courtland. The same review can be found with both books.
I have always enjoyed stories of people from our world finding there way into another world. CS Lewis and Guy Gavriel Kay have always been two of my favourite authors. Having read these two books, I now have two more favourite authors!
Spurrell's 'Children of the Halo' take the 'people from this world' theme to a whole new level. Dunsmith, a town of about eight thousand inhabitants on Vancouver island, is transported to a new world! That's right—a whole town crosses over to a different planet. And when I say "the whole town" makes the trip, I mean the entire town is carved out of the ground…
The next six hundred pages follow the adventures of several individual town members, the whole town, and several of the natives of this "new" world. The individual stories are woven well into the broader stories of conflict between nations and the town. The contrasts between our modern world and the more medieval world to which they are transported are cleverly developed. And the ensemble cast of characters are developed in realistic ways.
The inclusion of several short background stories at the end gives the reader a more detailed glimpse into the background of the characters. A welcome addition.
'Children of the Halo' is a great read, cleverly executed and compelling presented. The copy editing is excellent (though not quite perfect). The prose rarely gets bogged down. The characters are well drawn. And its great to have a Canadian setting rather than a US setting for the town of Dunsmith.
If I have any criticism it would be that the adjustment to being in a new world (both the physical adjustment of getting electricity up and running and the mental adjustment of being ripped out of the familiar and placed on a new world) is a little too easy. Not one person seems to have had a mental breakdown!
'Counterpoints to Chaos' is a more familiar tale of two people transported to another world. What makes this book so great is that the traditional formula is allowed to breathe in unique ways that feel exactly right.
Tony is a farmboy struggling to leave the farm and make his way in the city (Regina in Canada). Nazia is a Muslim Pakastani woman in Regina for her cousin's wedding. Neither knows anything of the other until they are transported to another world where they are called upon to fulfill an ancient prophesy.
The pace of this book is excellent and the low magic of the world is refreshing. The integration of our world and this other world is handled intelligently and bears similarities with CS Lewis and the Narnia tales. The world, itself, is delightfully filled with a more 'Oriental' flavour than most fantasy books. Even the vampires (the Ninnun) feel suitably different—more eastern, perhaps.
What is most interesting is the integration of Islam into the overall story. This is done with a very light hand and is most often hinted at rather than spoken of. It gives the book a flavour that is at the same time familiar and unique.
The writing is, again, compelling with very good (though not quite perfect) copy editing. The ending is a little simplistic in its treatment of reactions from others after returning home. A story otherwise so well written could have explored a variety of reactions morerealistically. But that is a minor quibble for what is an extraordinary tale.
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)