Author: A.M. Tuomala
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.
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.