1) One minute I’m reading the book, the next I’m scrambling to make sure I downloaded the second novel. Thank God I had. Yvonne Hertzberger has a wonderful talent about her, able to create a world that doesn’t need all that much explanation to understand, and a solid plot built around characters rather than something catastrophic like many of the popular dystopian novels lining bookshelves these days. Earth, the Mother, is out of Balance and it’s up to a spy with no emotion to save her by saving a maid, Bensa, whose been brutally raped. Playing in the background is the coming-of-age story of Lord Gaelen, whose suddenly found himself ruler of Bargia by the double death of his father and elder brother, and Marja, Lady of the conquered kingdom Catania.
Their joining is looked on by some with hope. But for another, it’s a different story-one that could spell disaster and death not just for Bargia and Catania, but for the Earth as well.
Political intrigue, romance, magic, what more could anyone ask for?
I found myself falling in love with each of the characters. Especially Klast and Brensa. Both are so flawed, so perfectly damaged it makes for a beautiful love story that had tears welling.
The book zips along wonderfully, making for a quick but satisfying read. I think the only real trouble I had was getting used to the author’s writing style. It is much more direct than I’m used too and very formal. However, once I was five chapters in the narration flowed more easily until I had to force myself to put my iPad down to sleep.
The author should be proud, and congratulated for a very well written first novel that makes the reader want to do nothing else but pick up the second and get to reading!
2) I do not generally read books from the Fantasy genre, but this is not at all the typical outlandish sword and sorcery tale that one might expect. The opening scene is gripping, and right away the reader is drawn into a chaotic world in sore need of healing and balance. The characters– both the good and the bad– are thoughtful and complex. If you are a fan of historical fiction, you may at times feel on familiar ground… but the characters and the story they tell often throw conventional expectations aside and keep the reader guessing. Put aside any preconceived idea that this is a pseudo-Medieval society where women are but chattel. There is a peculiar tension between the sexes on Ms. Hertzberger’s Earth, and that is at the heart of the issue: a need for men and women to find common ground, and to not only listen but truly hear the other’s perspective. If the balance is not struck, disaster must surely follow… and it does.
Mysticism plays a major role. The author’s great love in inventing intricate details is apparent in the attention given to the everyday lives of ordinary folk as well as the noble class. The pictures she paints of her enigmatic spiritual characters give an air of authenticity to the journey.
The female characters are all well-drawn and strong. But as other reviewers have stated here, Klast is a stand-out. From the outset, he is a man cloaked in mystery– a true dark horse. We want to understand exactly what is behind his careful self-control and self-denial, and his uncanny abilities to see and not be seen…
As the Earth struggles to regain its balance, the trilogy continues… and I can recommend it as one to watch.
3) Well written with characters you can really care about. When a writer can make me cry, I’m THERE. Klast and his tightly contained emotions is a wonderful character. He performs duties he abhors, but he does them willingly due to loyalty to the lord he serves–often at his own emotional expense. Watching the well-scripted changes in this character is enough, but there is Marja–strong and educated for a woman of her time; Gaelen–too soon in life brought to power and never having time to grieve his losses, he wears his mantle well. How does a new lord bring two formerly warring communities together under that mantle and the price he pays to do it are so well written you won’t want to put this one down. I finished it at 3 a.m. this morning and wish there had been even more.
4) What a wonderful story this author has woven, filled with suspense and intrigue, every sentence dripping with conflict and a sense of magic. The characters are so well developed they seem to leap off the page but beneath the story and woven through all the events is the internal conflict of the earth and the need for balance if earth itself is to survive. The deeper message is twined tightly through the story and within every character. Most especially in Klast, who is such an intriguing man – I think I feel a little in love. An amazing tale, so well told. With the pleasure of two more books to come.
5) Back from Chaos is a fitting title for Yvonne Hertzberger’s Fantasy novel.
With degrees in psychology and sociology, the author’s interest in balance in life leads the action of the novel. The tension of the novel is the imbalance in nature–individual, social, and governmental–and how nature seeks to balance those imbalances.
Earth magic and earth energies have been disrupted. The “magic” of the novel is a seer who knows the disruptions of earth energy and sees how they must be set in harmony again. The author steps out of the category of “just another fantasy to be read, enjoyed, and put aside” by focusing on this earth magic–that individual action affects the world, and that the world affects the individual, that true harmony is both universal and specific.
The newly crowned king and his newly wed wife must find harmony in their relationship, for that harmony must extend to the kingdom. The king’s assassin and a brutally raped attendant to the queen seek to overcome their experiences in order to find a means of expressing their love. Other characters seek their places in the new kingdom that has been forged on the hard anvil of battle.
The best example of nature seeking harmony is in the love relationship of two characters: Klast, the king’s assassin, and Brensa, lady in waiting. Klast was abused as an orphaned child and has grown into a loyal yet emotionless assassin. Brensa is violently raped during the aftermath of a war. The author devotes a significant portion of the novel to chronicling how these individuals can find and exhibit love–both emotionally and physically. She details how emotional stress is made manifest in the physiology, and how that can lead a woman to not be able to physically express her love with a man. She details how physical abuse can manifest in the emotions, leading to a man not being able to express the tender giving of love. These individual conflicts are part of the “earth magic” that must be brought to harmony in the novel.
A multiple third person point of view presents the reader an ensemble of main characters, from servants to royalty, and then follows their efforts to come back from the chaos of disfiguring stresses and experiences to find harmony. The novel reads quickly, almost as a narrative history, due to the emphasis on a handful of couples, the main characters. One could say this is both the novel’s strength and weakness. Moving from one character to another diffuses the connection to the characters, yet that panoramic perspective also creates an expanded vision of the events of the story. We witness the lives of people living in interesting times, as the saying goes.
War, civil strife, plague–these are the background for the novel Back from Chaos. I found the novel to be a quick read, perhaps because of the panoramic style of the storytelling. It wasn’t until I had finished the book that I realized the unusual and defining qualities of the novel. War, death, the individual brutalities of child abuse and rape–the honest and human assessment of these disharmonies in outer nature and our inner nature make this book different than many novels of the fantasy genre.
If you want a quick read of a fantasy novel, Back from Chaos will provide you that. Don’t be surprised, though, if after finishing the novel, you find yourself thinking about its very human challenges. How do we treat one another with dignity and respect? How do we create harmony in our individual lives and radiate that harmony into the greater world?
Author Yvonne Hertzberger has asked that the Kindle edition published by herself be purchased–and not the iUniverse edition. Links provided in this review are to the Hertzberger edition.
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