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Posted May 22, 2013
The Spirit Child (The Seven Realms of Ar'rothi) / Alison Naomi Holt
“You are invited to enter Ar’rothi, a world as vividly realized as Narnia or Middle Earth, a world where animal spirits guide humans towards enlightenment, and in which an orphaned girl and a warrior duchess must join forces against an evil that threatens everything they have learned to love.”
Alison Naomi Holt has done an outstanding job creating her own elaborate world of Ar’rothi and its spiritual realms. Basic elements and environments are earthlike and there is a strong influence from Native American culture and spiritualism throughout, which made it easy for me to slip into her world. Aurelia “Bree” Makena, Duchess of Danforth, has secluded herself away from society while she mourns the loss of her husband in the small township of Ashton Fork. When a trapper hauls a wild, mute, orphaned eight-year-old girl into town and offers her for sale, Bree could not let this child be bought by the likes of the men offering up bids. She also cannot see herself raising a child; regardless she now has possession of a severely abused, hard-headed child who is used to fending for herself. The battles of wills between these two are realistic, daunting, and at times comical.
It is heartwarming to watch Bree come to terms with herself in taking responsibility for this little girl, having to push aside her depression and reach out to try to communicate with, what we soon find out is, the Spirit Child. When Bree’s friend Becca, a healer who studied at the King’s Collegiums and the Outer Territories to learn native healing techniques, shows up we learn this child’s history. The abuse she survived while being raised by one of the Shona tribes was severe and heartbreaking. When Bree learns the child was never even given a name she names her Kaiti, after her dead husband’s mother, therefore claiming the child as her own. The emotional journey these two characters take us on is worth the cost of the book.
One of my favorite aspects of this story are the spirit guides, they are quite entertaining. Bree is considered a deaf one because she cannot (or refuses to) hear or see her spirit guide, much to her badger’s dismay. Becca can see and hear all spirit guides and hers is an awesome white wolf whose personality I loved. The Spirit Child sees and hears all spirit guides but her own, one of the most powerful Guides, Denabi the black panther, however, she refuses to acknowledge any of them believing she would be killed because she was not worthy. Ms. Holt has gone into a lot of detail building her spiritual world naming all the different levels and which spirit guides belong to which level. I found it all a bit overwhelming trying to remember them all, especially when two different tribes of Shona warriors started chasing the Spirit Child.
There has been a breach between the Realms. Evil is spilling into the physical realm from the Underworld and Black Guides, known as Teivaledin, are aligning themselves with those who have an inherently evil nature. In all Realms only Kaiti, who has the Gifts of Aevala, can see the Teivaiedin, She is their only hope in defeating Morgrad, God of the Underworld. This book is full of adventure, danger, drama, humor, healing, treachery, and the strength of the human spirit itself.
There is a Glossary included for all the terms and names, which really comes in handy.
I found no significant editing or formatting issues in this story.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. ** May 14, 2013
Posted October 25, 2012
I read this book in three VERY late nights. Ms. Holt is an excellent storyteller whose works span genres. This is her first novel in the Fantasy realm and is spot-on. The writing is crisp, clean, and to the point.
Set in a world similar to the Middle Ages, there is a strong influence of Native American tribal culture and spiritualism implicit throughout. The danger is real and immediate. The humanity is three-dimensional, as is the personal growth of the main characters. The personal pain and torment of the both the Duchess and the Spirit Child has depth, from which they have the opportunity to grow. Spirit Guides are personal, both spiritual and real. They are woven in ways that are not necessarily obvious. Both Human and Spirit Guide have to grow and learn from each other. They each must protect and be protected. From that, the story grows.
I highly recommend this book. I am very glad that this is only Book One. There is so much story to tell. I cannot wait for the next book!