“In this second work, Mary Elizabeth Ames has written a novel that is compelling, intellectually engaging and timely in content and scientific challenges. While reading the novel, one can see the characters in a science fiction movie confronting brutality while struggling with life-and-death ethical issues and familial loyalties. What is compelling about the work is that the story gently urges the reader to consider the science of genetics in very small doses at the end of the chapters, thus educating while entertaining the reader.”
—Catharine A Kopac PhD, DMin, GNP-BC
Adjunct Associate Professor, George Washington University, Consultant and Ethicist
“This is an adventure tale that both entertains and offers short, clear lessons about genetics. The author has created a cast of memorable characters who can transform into a variety of non-human animals to problem-solve as they explore their changing world. Beautiful illustrations supplement the story of interactions among humans, dragons, foxes, owls, badgers, and other critters. Themes addressed include the importance of loyalty to family and friends and a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances in an interconnected world.”
—S. A. Jarecki, PhD
Former RN Faculty
“The adventures are fun to read, intriguing, and fast paced. . . . Genetics come alive in this exciting adventure story.”
“With her new science fiction book, H’Ilgraith, Mary Elizabeth Ames continues to break the mold when it comes to conveying complex science within compelling fiction. Ames fleshes out a character she introduced in Homo transformans: The Origin and Nature of the Species, which offers a different point of view into her futuristic saga about genetic disruption and experimentation. This is a morality tale about interdependence. Monsters don’t make themselves and heroes don’t operate in a vacuum. Capabilities that aid survival in one setting are handicaps in another. The same plants that heal can also kill. Whether read purely for the story or together with Ames’ well-placed scientific annotations and references, H’Ilgraith offers new insights into relating effectively with one another in an increasingly diverse world.
Former Managing Editor for Creative Services at J.D. Edwards
“H’Ilgraith—to this reader—brings to mind two other series of novels, Harry Potter (by J. K. Rowling) and the Earth’s Children book series by Jean M. Auel). It is a fascinating blend of fantasy, science fiction, romance, intellectual engagement, exercise of will power, brutal fighting, ethical sensibilities, and familial loyalties. There is heavy use of science research: footnoted, referenced, glossary, and bibliography. Life-and-death ethical issues abound between competing groups and species, especially highlighting the deliberate interdependence of all life forms. The profound flow of action alternating with science will keep the reader engaged and inspired.”
—Rev. Dr. Jerrold L. Foltz, Pastor
United Church of Christ
“I finished the book and just loved it! . . . I can’t wait for another book. . . . These books would be a great movie!”
—Michelle Mayer, MSN, ANP
The second volume in Ames’ series that fuses introductory genetics with SF adventure.
Homo transformans are humans who can transform into animals; they arose on Earth in the centuries after a supernova bathed the planet in gamma radiation. The House of H’Aleth is a community dedicated to the peaceful co-existence of Homo transformans and Homo sapiens. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Cassius Foundation, run by the maniacal Rex Cassius; they manipulate human and animal genes to create ever more powerful hybrids. Cassius competes with the Biogenics Corporation for territory and resources, especially much-prized dragon genes. Into this frightful tableau comes H’Ilgraith, cousin to H’Assandra, Mistress of the House of H’Aleth. H’Ilgraith possesses a restless intellect that’s guided her to the healing arts, and she can change into a great horned owl, a gray fox, a badger, and a lynx. When her search for the calypso plant, which can help treat nervous disorders, brings her into Cassius territory, she discovers a fortress and a mass grave for failed hybrids. Luckily, she also meets Jak, a lone-wolf Homo transformans who agrees to escort her through the dangerous lands. Jak also has a secret that makes him valuable to H’Aleth’s overall mission. Ames dials up the adventure in this sequel to the educational Homo Transformans (2018), and she continues to offer informative tidbits about genetics and evolution, as in the line, “one could inherit a gene and even pass it on to offspring without ever experiencing its effects (gene expression).” The book also includes maps, appendices, a glossary, and a list of references. When characters travel in animal form and display their natural skills for acquiring food and avoiding predators, Ames’ prose channels the elegance of naturalist Sally Carrighar, who wrote One Day on Beetle Rock (1946). However, the quieter, human interactions feel too removed from the action to feel properly dramatic. Rex, for example, sends an “emissary” to learn about Biogenics’ operation; that emissary has a page of heated dialogue but is never named. Despite the excellent black-and-white illustrations by design agency Epic Made, this sequel still feels a bit underdeveloped.
This novel’s informative passages succeed, but its drama is too dryly conveyed.