El and Onine
“El and Onine” is a complex story that does not fit neatly into any box. It is a creation story, an epic saga, a paranormal fiction, a fantasy, and a romance. I took my time putting this review together because I wanted to do justice to the deft way Ambroziak deals with the complexities of a theme which appears in many forms throughout our human history.
Those of us familiar with Ovid’s Metamorphoses will recognize the origins or theme behind the masterful way in which Ambroziak makes this recurring subject in literature new and fresh. As someone not familiar with Ovid’s version I found that my lack did not deter me from enjoying this one.
Even those not accustomed to creation myths will find this book a joy to read. Yet, its complexity will challenge the reader – in a good way. Ambroziak creates characters that reveal themselves slowly and patiently. She does so with such a clever hand that we are drawn to them, wonder about them, want to know them better from the outset, even become impatient to solve the riddle of who they are in their depths. While this is especially true of both El and Onine, our two main characters, even some secondary characters, such as the Venutian goddess, do not appear full-blown, but become known to us bit by bit.
The worlds Ambroziak builds, both on Venus and on Earth, are beautifully and completely wrought. The alien cultures are well developed, including the religious/mythological aspects which drive the theme forward. I marvel at the visual images that invoke both worlds. Ambroziak uses description with just enough detail that we see a full picture, but wastes no extraneous words to get us there.
The story does not follow a chronological line, but moves back and forth in time. This allows the reader to learn why things unfold as they do without giving away too much too early. Some characters are given two names, depending on what part of the story they live in at the moment, or which other characters they interact with. This keeps the reader guessing, at least for a time, as to who is who. We have our suspicions, but no certain confirmations until well into the book. It is a clever device that keeps us on our toes, asking questions, wanting to see how it all ties together.
While I loved all of these aspects, the underlying romance is what drew me in the most. Both El and Onine must suffer greatly before they can fulfill their destinies, El without knowing her role, Onine with full understanding. Yet neither are what they seem, at first, to the reader, or to each other.
This exceptional book will keep readers engaged from page one to its conclusion. I recommend it for enthusiasts of all the genres mentioned.