The rise of an epic – “The Road to Rebirth” by Dean F. Wilson

Description by the author/blurb

THE DYING BREATH. THE DYING WILL. THE DYING HOPE. After the catastrophe of the Call of Agon, Ifferon and his companions find themselves in the unenviable situation of witnessing, and partaking in, the death of another god—this time Corrias, the ruler of the Overworld.

With Corrias locked inside the corpse of the boy Théos, he suffers a fate worse than the bonds of the Beast Agon. Yet hope is kindled when the company find a way to restore the boy, and possibly the god, back to life.

The road to rebirth has many pitfalls, and there are some who consider such meddling with the afterlife a grave risk. The prize might be life anew—but the price might also be a second death.
road to rebirth

Review (for the review of the book’s predecessor, go here)

This second volume of „The Children of Telm“ immediately starts where the first one, „The Call of Agon“, left off: Ifferon and his companions must come to terms with the fact that they have been playing into the hands of evil when they believed they were fighting against it. „Ifferon watched as the knight wept and cast aside his pendant, an emblem of Corrias.“ They thought that Corrias, the god’s leader, had forsaken them, while it was them who fell short in their duty towards him. He, incarnated in the little boy Theos, was with them and they didn’t recognise him. Now Corrias died with his earthly vessel and thus seems dead the only force in the world Iraldas that could oppose Agon. But there is the hope of rebirth by an intricate ritual.

Wilson tells his tale in a language rich, colourful, lively. It is brimming with metaphors and particularly abundant in comparisons. However, the reiterated invocation of “as if” and “like” is never tiresome, but it conjures up the imagery that spell-binds the reader to the universe and scenery.
The pinnacle of artistic creation is the congruity of form – that is, language – and content, and in this novel they approach ingeniously.
This convergence winds about the central theme of the work, resurrection. Parallel to the ceremony to restore life to Corrias, the companions of “The Call of Agon” must go through their own labour of rebirth, must fight the anguish that has taken possession of them. Highlighted be here the plight of Délin and Herr’Don, though all the characters suffer through their own conflict.
Délin has lost Corrias, but has also lost with Theos whom he felt almost a child of his own – “I feel like I am loosing more than Theos here,” Délin confides to Ifferon. “I feel like I am loosing my will to fight for freedom and honour.” He confronts an impasse, as there seems to be no middle ground between either calling Corrias or the innocent child Theos back to life. This leads to the reflection on the basic moral dilemma behind: is it permissible to achieve a greater good by bringing about a lesser evil?
Herr’Don’s soul is no less stricken, but in a different way. He announces “It has all been in vain … My part in this tale is done.” While Délin still believes in fighting for a future, and it is the apparent impossibility of doing it honourably that afflicts him, Herr’Don has lost faith in the world, in the future, in fighting. He leaves the others and takes on a lonesome road across Iraldas, passing through the places the company had come by in the first volume.

So it is the heart of the characters that is drained of life force – and in the story the struggle for the rebirth of Corrias is, above all, a symbol for the fight for rebirth, to new strength and purpose, of the characters. “The second death” is a recurring topic. In its literal meaning in the story, it’s the annihilation of a soul already dwelling in the Underworld, Halés. But in it’s symbolic sense it’s the lapse from the possibility of moral rebirth that still is open to the characters, however narrowly. Délin might abandon his faith in honour altogether, Herr’Don might never return to a sense of responsibility. All the principal characters run the risk of this second death in one sense or another.

Profound are the questions that Wilson lets his characters face, but he avoids all platitudes by avoiding an answer. Why fight if evil ever returns? Well, fight for fighting then. “His heart was comforted, but his mind refused all comfort.” The great existential problems know no resolution, but existential, demanding, immediate they are. The author shows if the answers his characters can find for themselves make them either succumb or rise with new power.

Therefore, on the level of content moral rebirth is the central theme and symbolised by the struggle for the God’s resurrection. A symbol signifies something it is not itself. Similarly, a metaphor or comparison brings together two notions that are not identical, the one depicting the meaning of the other. Hence it is not accidental that Wilson should illustrate moral rebirth by the actual rebirth of a God and at the same time clad his story content in highly illustrative language. This is precisely the sound relation between content and form this novel establishes.
Already in the first instalment Wilson chose a densely metaphorical, at points lyrical prose that augmented by archaic expressions the feel for the medieval fantasy background as well as for the legendary frame of the story. In the second instalment, furthermore, Wilson links the form of language he has selected to a thematic concentration that works on the same principal, the indirect expression by imagery.

If, of the two books out by now, “The Road to Rebirth” appears the less eventful, it is more mature, more reflective, more psychologically elaborate than the first. For all that it does not loose grip and tension. Finally, it shows a sharpened sense of structural conception by the dependency of form and content. The novel is closely integrated, round off and powerful in its artistic achievement.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

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