"A marvelous world" Beyond the Gloaming by @Hibernauts #fantasy #review

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Beyond the Gloaming

Sebastian and the Hibernauts Book 1

Written by Brendan Murphy

Genre(s): Fantasy

It is Easter, 1973 and twelve year old Sebastian Duffy has some serious self-esteem issues. He is beaten by his parents, bullied at school, steals from his friends and still mourning the death of his brother. To cap it all, strange things have begun happening around him and he is finding it hard to distinguish dreams from reality.

After a nightmarish assault, he wakes in the Gloaming, a shadow world inhabited by ghosts. There to greet him is Porrig, a creature from Hibercadia, a magical realm crafted from Celtic dreams. Inhabited by Fir Bolg, Tuath and Milesians, it has been overthrown by brother gods from another dreamworld. One brother, Phobitor, is a tyrant and even the Tuath, who took to their underground sidhe millennia ago, are concerned.

Sebastian discovers that he alone can save Hibercadia by finding an enchanted spear. Teaming up with the Hibernauts—a mercurial sorceress, an orphaned druidess, a taciturn warrior, a snuff-sniffing leprechaun and a lovelorn poet—he embarks on a fantastical quest, but can he succeed when he is yet to find his magical potential or even his courage, and half the realm is bent on his destruction?

Rachel's Review

Sebastian is a boy of 12-13. He's bullied at school and beaten at home. He's suffered the loss of his older brother. He's an ethnic minority (Irish, in England) and not liked by his teachers. So he hasn't got much going for him. He does have a very rich dream life, though, and that turns out to be his gift.

Hibercadia is a world manifested by human dreams. There are countless mystical creatures there, including leprechauns, ghosts, and Greek gods, as well as lots of others I'd never heard of. Sebastian ends up receiving an extended education in the history and politics of this wonderful world, as well as warrior craft and more than one branch of magic.

My biggest criticism of the book is that it leans way too much on telling, not showing, the story. Lengthy passages relate the history of the land, or the social standing of bards relative to warrior poets, or whose father died in a battle and which other soldier's fault it was . . . and it's all probably essential information, in a later book in the series. But, instead of telling the reader that Roisin lacks a sense of humor (for example), why not demonstrate it through dialogue?

Murphy creates a marvelous world for Sebastian to study and travel in. His allies are individual and well-developed, though perhaps tending a bit toward stereotypes. (Why do some kinds of creatures always seem to be servants?) His enemies are appropriately scary; the dangers are real. Sebastian is going to be called to stand up and fight sometime, but not in this book.

The reader gets a glimpse of his character, and what he will have to overcome within himself; but we'll have to wait for the next installation of the series to see him rise to the call. Therefore, this book doesn't stand alone.

That said, it's a good read, for being mostly set-up. I do think I'll continue with this series, when the next book is released.

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