Today, I have an apology to offer my readers, and a presumably good excuse for it. The apology is this: I promised some time ago to finish reading, and to write a review of, Daniel Heath Justice’s (already obviously excellent and motivating) omnibus revised edition of The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles. That is, I rather cavalierly assumed that I would be finished with it by the end of October and would have already written a satisfying and provocative post on it. The book is quite long (588 pages, plus a 28-page Glossary of Names and Stories at the End), but that isn’t part of my excuse: I’ve read long books, longer works, before, and have been able to comment on a number of books at one time in some earlier posts. The problem is just that chore after chore and routine after routine from daily life got in the way, so that I barely had time to do simpler readings in order to complete the posting schedules I’ve set for myself. I had hoped to finish the book and leave myself time to comment, but now that I am 159 pages into the work, it has already become obvious that I cannot begin to do credit to it.
First of all, on the most pragmatic level, there are perhaps even more significant if not more main characters in the book than there are in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or at least as many. This bodes well for the book’s ethos, because it helpfully represents that every voice is heard, even those which may not be helpfully inclined. Secondly, the book has several spiritual paths to Enlightenment through craft, not one generalized sort of wizardry which is split into good and evil practitioners, though the most sympathetic path is that of the wyr, or the Green and growing world, the world of the various Tree-Born Kyn, and Beast-Clan Tetawi; there are also Other Folk of the Everland and Beyond and The Sons and Daughters of Man, to give the names of just the groups of main characters. The concepts of sexuality have also been expanded to include other than just male-female relationships, which along with many other features in the book indicates a generosity of the picture of empathetic life force for everyone.
The path leading to further experience of the wyr as a flowing life force for one of the main characters, Tarsa’deshae, a she-Kyn Redthorn Warrior destined to become a wyr Wielder, is a rite of passage, in which (as far as I have read so far) she encounters her “true face” as a mysterious floating mask suspended in mid-air in the tunnel behind a waterfall in the main council town of the Kyn. When she accepts the correct mask, she has a vision of the Eternity Tree, and swims in a body of water which surrounds it: a brief quote cannot begin to describe the beauty of the full description, but I will provide it anyway.
“The Wielder couldn’t identify the color of the Tree’s bark–there didn’t seem to be a word to describe it. It was neither silver-blue, nor grey, nor green, but a shifting marriage of the three….The leaves were of all seasons and none. The burning red, brown, and orange of autumn flared amidst the young green of spring-born morning, and these mingled with ageless silver, copper, brass, and gold. The Tree was of all species, all forms, all genders and none, but each image was unique in its way, and each leaf grew large and lush, wild beyond living memory, as tendrils of endless generations of ivy wrapped themselves around the great trunk and branches, dipping deeply into the waters that lapped against the wide and reaching roots.” There is a union of opposites in the image of Tarsa in the pool of water while her clothes are consumed away by a mystic flame of life from the Tree and through the water itself, and then her elders and teachers come to claim her as one of themselves. But this is by no means the end of the story, as all the stories in the book are still waiting to be resolved at this point; this is as far as I have read, and I simply had to share the description of the Tree, though there’s a lot more about it and about the force of wyr to read in the book.
Thus, though I have failed on my original promise to write a full review/article on this so-far gripping and spiritually very fine book by the end of October, I hope I have whetted your appetite for the book itself: it’s less important in the final analysis that I get a lot of credit for writing a good post on the book, though I naturally want to do it justice, than it is that you read the book and we get a chance to discuss it. So, if you read no other fantasy novel this whole year and even if you think fantasy except for classics like The Lord of the Rings isn’t your “thing,” please consider that this book is truly a world classic and isn’t just like Tolkien’s in the sense that unlike Tolkien it isn’t limited to Western culture’s mythologies and traditions, but is about the World, as its multiple cultures and divination traditions indicates. I will faithfully try to finish the rest of the book as soon as I possibly can, and perhaps do another post on it when I’m done, but I couldn’t let the last day of October go by without reverting to my promise and attempting to fulfill it as far as I can. As I said before, I may have covered only 159 pages so far (to the beginning of Chapter 12), but I’m already anticipating re-reading it once I’ve finished it, as I have with Tolkien’s work many times in the past.
Though I know that many people just now are still recovering from the latest of natural disasters, recent storms such as Hurricane Sandy that have hit as well as the massive snowstorms that have blanketed parts of the United States due to Sandy’s conflict with the jet stream, I am writing today because I have mostly been only inconvenienced by the storm, and would like to share something which might provide spiritual inspiration for others who are equally looking to help people in need of a worthwhile distraction from their own worries. I would like to position this novel squarely where its talented writer has already positioned it in the writing: in the belief that we all have a part to play in the world, and that what happens to one person does not happen to him or her alone, but happens to us all; thus, we need to share in whatever way we can to restore the “Eternity Tree” of life to those around us both near and far, and to improve the flow of life force to us all. I hope it won’t seem callous thus that I am going on with my life in an ordinary way, having given Sandy its due and picked up again where I left off. And maybe, just maybe, if I get really lucky, my post will lift someone’s spirits who needs it, or will place a copy of The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles in someone’s hands, someone who needs a spiritual boost from a writer who is a true leader and an inspiration for the way to go forth after much destruction. And this applies not only to Sandy, but to tsunamis, and earthquakes, and tidal waves and tornados: there is for each culture a Good Book to which people look for guidance, but in the world there are in more modest ways also many “good books,” “great books” even, which can help to show the way when life seems most threatened by disaster. Justice’s book is one such book, is all I am claiming.