"Dreamy, creepy..." The 13th Island by Francis Venn #fantasy #review

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The 13th Island
Tales from the Numinous Maze

Written by Francis Venn

Genre(s): Metaphysical Fantasy

Alyn and Ital are two young men struggling to survive in a world where society is in terminal decay.

They enter the employment of a powerful recluse, after being interviewed under very strange circumstances. So begins their journey to the legendary 13th Island.

Rela is a young woman who is also struggling to survive, all alone in the hostile world that she has been born into. Her path is very different to Alyn's and Ital's, but one of the Island's secrets will eventually bring them together.

As it will another - a minor Church official named Salvius, by way of his curiosity about the confession of a dying noblewoman many centuries ago.

They will all have to face inhuman challenges, and find a way to deal with the apparently unfathomable mysteries of the Island if they are to survive.

What is connection between the Monks known as 'The Dreamnaughts' and the island? What is 'The Masquerade' where most do not even know that they are taking part? What is the role of the mysterious Blackbird that keeps turning up at crucial moments? And are Jack and Catherine, the apparently immortal couple who inhabit the Island, their allies or their foes?

But above all, what is the purpose of the terrifying Vortex that arises from within the ancient and other-worldly Temple at the center of the Island? And why does Alyn's and Ital's employer want to obtain the water from the pool which lies beneath it, even if it costs them their lives?

Join them as they discover how 'The 13th Island' links into the vastness of 'The Numinous Maze'... 

Rachel Creager Ireland's Review

Dreamy, creepy, sometimes predictable

Where is the line between cliche and archetype? I asked myself this question repeatedly while reading The Thirteenth Island.

I first asked it right in the beginning, when two men are introduced: starving men in difficult times, casing a fine, well-kept manor. They end up applying for employment at the manor, despite a scary warning from a mysterious figure in black who meets them on the lawn, then disappears. The master of the manor has a strange look about him, keeps a servant who goes by a number rather than a name, and gives the starving men a fabulous meal. Right then I thought, "Don't eat the food!" Because you know already who the bad guy is, and it's either a cliche or an ancient archetype that when you meet one from the nether world, you don't eat his food.

I wasn't impressed with the writing of the first section of the book, and honestly, I didn't want to read further. But I had agreed to review it, and, because I don't review a book if I haven't read it, I must plod on.

The very next section was much more engaging. We meet another character, a desperate, injured woman on the run. She comes to a once-fine manor, which has clearly been abandoned for many years. There's a mark on the gate indicating that this place is forbidden by the overarching Church. Death to any who enter! (Cliche, or archetype?) She goes in, and finds it a pretty good place to escape her pursuers, who fear to enter.

Maybe the answer to the question lies in what you do with the ideas. How do you write an archetypal story that isn't trite and predictable? Maybe it's through the language, though I'm not sure this book really hits the mark. It does have a dreamy, dark tone, which reminded me sometimes of LeGuin's Earthsea books; but without LeGuin's brilliant artistry.

And yet, about halfway through the book, I could no longer predict what would happen. Well, sometimes I could. Pretty much knew what was going to happen to the cleric, pretty much knew which characters were going to end up on the Island, pretty much knew what was going to happen to the talking boat.

But there were surprises, too. Some felt right, like when a bell rings, and you know it's ringing true, even though you've never heard that particular bell ring before. Some surprises I didn't quite get. (Why was it painful to go through the maze? Huh?)

There's a good bit of explaining at the end, which supplies answers to some of the many mysteries of this strange island; yet, many questions are left nagging, to be answered in a later book.

Now I'm supposed to tell you, read it! or, don't waste your time! But, honestly, I don't know. I can say that the author did a good job of conveying the ethereal, mysterious nature of the Island, its inhabitants, and the Temple. It got me pretty creeped out. Characters were pretty good, with believable motivations. I thought the editing could have been better. Some spots might have been a bit tighter; some might have shown, rather than told, just a little more than they did. I thought the plot was a little wobbly, though not so much that it dragged; it's a book carried by setting and characters rather than plot.

But I can say this: I was glad I read past the first section. And I just might have to read the next book, when it comes, just to find out what on earth this place is all about.

Disclaimer: Book provided by the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.