Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Wayfarer's Redemption--a return to paganism?

Much of reading in recent times has been along the lines of sci-fi and fantasy. Why? I'm not certain. I like the stories, usually. There's often some thought-provoking things in them.

One I finished a few days ago was "The Wayfarer's Redemption" by a Sara Douglass, or that at least is her pen-name (I think her real name is different). It is the first book in a series.

It's a pretty standard fantasy story--something evil has build up an army of strange creatures and is invading a land where some are fighting to defend, there is a prophecy which may tell of deliverance and one who will lead against the coming evil. That's a very simple summation of it.

There are three basic races in the land (there is a fourth, too, though they are not mentioned much in this first book)--humans as we are, humanoids with some physical features like such animals as deer who are called Avar, and humanoids with wings called Icarii. Many years before the book starts, the regular humans fought against the others and drove them from the land into some forests and mountains.

For much of the first book, the other two races are treated as victims of human aggression and the false human religion, although a preview of the second book at the end of the first does seem to say that at least the Icarii are not so innocent when it comes to why humans came to view them badly.

There are good things in the book. Heroism, self-sacrifice, parental love, resistence of evil, care for the helpless, all are put forward as good things. And that's fine.

There are also things in it that were distasteful to me, though perhaps some of those things would be explored further in other books, like what I mentioned earlier in regards to how the Icarii may not have been so innocent in the human's feelings against them.

For one thing, their are the religions of the races. The humans have a religion that is quite simply a mirror or Christianity, or at least Catholicism--a religion with something like a papacy, a holy book, one whose followers make a sign in the air, with priests and places of meeting. It is a separate entity from the government, and has it's own army. It is anti-magic. In the book, the priests and others are mostly corrupt and power-hungry.

The Avar and Icarii are pagans. They keep festivals like beltide and yuletide, and at least at the yuletide festival in the book a sacrifice is made to ensure that the winter will end. There a sites and lakes and trees that for them are places of power.

The book makes no secret that the pagan ways are better then the faux-christian religion of the humans.

The Avar are pacifists, except in the case of the unborn. In one of the festivals, both races meet together and they have a night of making whoopy with each other. As one may imagine, children are conceived of that whoopy-making. Avar women, those pacifists who can barely even abide a human woman who came among them because she did violence in self-defense, will routinely abort the conceived cross-racial child for fear that it will be the evil one of the prophecy.

Sexual mores are decidedly loose among the characters, especially the good ones. The hero and villain are both sons of one of the Icarii, one by an Avar mother who didn't abort her child (is that telling, too?), the other by a human woman. One of the Sentinals, one of the fourth race though we don't know it until towards the end of the book, is not sparing in her favors. There is even mention made of an Icarii relationship that would have been between first cousins, the children of two brothers.

So, is it a good book? I enjoyed it, though not completely. I picked up the second from the library last weekend, though I haven't started it yet. There are things I liked, and things I disliked, in the story. I can't wholeheartedly recommend them, but for those of some discernment they may be good to read.


mike macon said...

The overt anti-church (or at least, anti-Catholic) tone sounds a lot like The Elenium, which was a thoroughly enjoyable series by David Eddings.

jazzact13 said...

I've seen Eddings books, but I don't think I've read anything of his yet. Thanks.