September 22, 2011

Review: Erekos, by A.M. Tuomala

Author: A.M. Tuomala
Title: Erekos
ISBN: 9781936460038
Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam (2010)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“For three hundred years, Erekos and Weigenland have fought to hold the borderland between the two nations. As the first storms of the flood season scour Erekos from the swamplands to the feet of the mountains, the Erekoi king discovers a dangerous new weapon that might be able to end the war: the witch Achane, who has raised her sister from the dead.   

Achane and her sister, dragged apart on the very doorstep of a temple, must work to find each other again before the magic that binds them also kills them. In the process, Achane must overcome her grief—and the temptation of the king's plans for Erekos. 

Meanwhile, on the mountainous border between the two warring lands, the student Erlen finds his research interrupted by the encroaching conflict. Driven by a militant love for this neutral territory and its people, he determines to defend his newfound homeland at any cost.   

In a land where gods walk the earth and myth manifests along the rivers and in the mountains, ordinary men and women must fight to make their own stories before the war unwrites them all.“
GoodReads’ blurb


When you pick up this book, you have two options: either you love it, or you hate. I don’t believe there’s a middle point. I’m on team Love, but I’m also aware that the very things that made it such a special read might be a turndown for another reader.

So, what is it about Erekos that’s so special, anyway?

The voice.

The voice is all-encompassing, in that it swallows the importance of characters and plot. What captures you is the storytelling, and if you don’t like it, no amount of amazing characterization or riveting plot twists is going to work for you.

Tuomala’s words have a cadence, an art to them. They weave the world, rather than building it, and they are part of it – that’s the best way I can think of to explain the feeling. When you are reading, you may have no idea whatsoever about where you are in the map, or where you should be heading, but you can certainly feel the waters of the river churning around the ship, and the leaves and tendrils from the vegetation in the swamp touching your face while you ride forth in a donkey with a zombie.

The characters have a level of tragedy to them, every single one, from the witch going against nature to the desperate king... but the most pitiful, and perhaps more significant character for me was Achane’s sister. Sick for all her life, now she’s dead – but she can’t rest. She’s mute and bound to a body that no longer is hers, suffering in the name of love.

There is something ironic in the way this act of love, which brings suffering, springs a desperate act of war meant to spare suffering. Not sure if that’s intended or just my mind reading too much into it, as usual, but the comparison is there.

And this brings us to the focus of the story, to Erlen and his war for the frontier. He’s an scholar who has a special relationship with his adopted people, the ones he was meant to research on and eventually destroy, and an even more complex relationship with one of them in particular. I loved these parts of the book for two reasons: one, the subtlety and finesse A.M. Tuomala displays when depicting this people, their interactions, their feelings. Two, the fact that this conflict does not have good and bad, but two sides who have been fighting for so long that they don’t know how to stop anymore.

Beyond the witch, and the zombi, and the gods walking the earth, I think that’s what Erekos is really about: find a solution when everything seems lost, find another way when you think there’s just the one under your feet.

I loved Erekos for it.

So, why do I say that you might hate it? Because today we’re used to tightly woven plots overflowing with action, where we jump from one point to the next, and Erekos is meant to enjoy the journey. It’s not the kind of prose you can drink up in a night’s worth of reading, but to turn the pages slowly and at your leisure.

If you like well-written books, books that will help you forget reality, and you have the time to sit down, relax and enjoy... Then, I’d advise you to read Erekos. It’s different to everything else you’ve read, I guarantee it.


  1. Hi, Ron!

    First of all, thanks for following my blog! I'm following you back!!

    Second, I just had to tell you that this is a beautifully-written review! I'm currently reading this book myself, and you have mirrored my feelings about it exactly.

    I have more to say, but have to stop now...because when you mentioned Achane's sister, referring to her situation as pitiful, I teared up...that's what I find most painful about the book. In fact, to be quite honest, I have stopped reading it for now.

    I promise to come back later, when I can come to grips with my emotions. Toumala is definitely a powerful writer -- she has made me feel deeply for this fictional character who is not quite alive...


  2. I'm back. (Well, actually, I also had to leave in order to go to my night job. However, I would have taken a break anyway, just not such a long one.)

    One point I dont' quite agree with in your review: you state that one will either love or hate this book. Well, in my case, it's not that simple. I certainly love the 'voice', as you put it. The prose style is incredible! It's memsmerizing. Totally. So I guess I would have to say that I have mixed feelings about this novel.

    This is the type of book critics will probably love, since it's obviously in the category of 'literary fiction'. I don't think it will be popular with the vast majority of readers.

    Well, looks like I'll be resuming my reading pretty soon, in spite of the zombie character....After all, I want to write a review of the book myself.

    Thanks for the fantastic review!!

  3. Hi Maria!

    Thanks a lot for dropping by! Your blog was amazing, I'm glad I found it :)

    Thanks so much for your kind words about the review, too!

    You're completely right about Achane's sister being such a powerful, sad character! We just have to feel for her - which is kind of ironic since, as you say, she's not quite alive.

    And it seems contradictory, but that was one of the things I loved about the book as well: while it made me sad, it also made me feel! There are so precious little books that manage to move the reader like that... Like one of those movies you come out of the theater crying your eyes out, but you'd not choose not to have seen the film in the first place :)

    I agree on the critic thing as well. Which might beg the question, is it better to write a great book, or a book most people will covet? But that's another story!

    I look forward to your review of this one. I'll keep my eyes open!

    Thanks for the meaningful comment!

  4. Hi, Ron!

    Gosh, I do apologize for not coming back sooner to respond to your comment above! Now that I've read your response to my own review of this book, I said to myself, "Gee, I just have to go back to Ron's blog and comment back!" Then I saw that I hadn't replied to YOUR reply to my previous comments!

    Anyway...thank you so much for all the wonderful comments you made about my review! I GREATLY appreciate them! It's always nice to get comments, especially very supportive ones, on one's review. I've noticed, while visiting other book blogs, that reviews don't usually get a lot of comments. Posts about giveaways do! So do author interviews, although not as many as the posts about giveaways. I think that's blogs are supposed to be mainly about reviews, aren't they? Well, I certainly think so!

    By the way, although I didn't mention it before -- and I really should have -- I LOVE two paragraphs in your review particularly. The first one begins with the words "The voice", and the second, with the words "Toumala's words". Those two paragraphs just blew me away! They are so beautifully written! I loved the entire review, but those two paragraphs really did it for me!

    Again, thank you so much for your comments on my own review! Your very positive words mean a lot to me!! : )