by Melissa Eskue Ousley
Believe it or not, there are some things even more mind numbing than waiting for the last day of school, having a job you hate or waiting to be “grown up”. One of those things is sitting in a desert, endlessly counting grains of red sand without pause. It is so mind numbing that one could easily forget their own name. That is precisely the situation in which Abigail – sometimes known as Abby – Brown finds herself in the opening chapter of Melissa Eskue Ousley’s The Sower Comes, the third and final installment of her Solas Beir Trilogy.
This, then, is The Wasteland – the world that serves as a place of perpetual punishment. Blessed with a dome of cobalt blue sky, it offers nothing else but red sand as far as the eye can see, and is only reachable through a portal between the worlds of Ms. Ouseley’s vivid imagination. It is not important at this moment to know just how Abby wound up in this place. As for herself, counting those red grains of sand is the most important thing; not escaping.
At first, Abby doesn’t notice that she’s suddenly not alone. It takes the instant pecking of a large, black as night raven. This bird is named Brarn and has been a somewhat minor, but nonetheless significant, character since the first book in this series, The Sign of the Throne. Brarn doesn’t have a speaking part, so we don’t expect him to say “Nevermore” or other such pithy phrases. Brarn does, however, know the way back to the world of Cai Terenmare; he knows the way home. It is up to Abby to follow.
Suddenly, she felt very small. She looked down at her fingers, her hands, but they were gone. In their place were white wings. She was the white raven once again.
The black raven cocked his head toward her and then dove through the glass of the mirror. Abby followed.
A lot has transpired since Abby was sidetracked into a career as a sand-counter. Lucia, who seemed to die at the hands of Tynan Tierney once her usefulness to him was over, has been restored to health and now occupies a cell in the dungeon, awaiting trial. The havoc that she has wrought upon Cai Terenmare’s inhabitants is equal to the damage done by Tierney. David, the Solas Beir, will sit in judgement and given that she was both responsible for his abduction and indirectly responsible for the brutal deaths of David’s foster parents in The Sign of the Throne, Lucia is going to have to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat in order to avoid a sentence of death.
The Dowager Queen Eulalia is due to marry the knight of her dreams and will soon be followed in matrimony by Abby and her betrothed, David. There are a couple of issues that threaten to put a damper on things such as Abby’s childhood friend, Jon, being MIA and presumably still held captive in the city of the Eastern Oracle. And then, there are the strange deaths in a fishing village and in the highlands to the north. Yes, there are worrisome things in the offing but nothing will spoil the happiness of the two upcoming weddings.
One of this reviewer’s favourite quotes of all time comes at the end of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and serves to convey – at least to the reviewer, anyway – a sense of what is to come in Cai Terenmare.
However, this was before Inigo’s wound reopened, and Westley relapsed again, and Fezzik took the wrong turn, and Buttercup’s horse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit. . . .
The ‘what’ or rather, the ‘whom’ that is to come is The Sower, an offspring born from the unholy coupling of David’s father and the Western Oracle of the day who was, by anyone’s standards, a nasty piece of work. However well-intentioned his father’s liaison may be been in order to protect his kingdom and his son-to-be, it is that same son, David, who must deal with the results of that pairing – the monster which Tynan Tierney has finally unleashed upon the world of Cai Terenmare.
Something was rising from the pool, something dark with reptilian scales like armor and a spine ridged in horns. The spikes protruding from the creature’s back looked sharp enough to impale him.
David’s fear increased tenfold. He’d been hoping to engage in hand-to-hand combat with a man, and, worst-case scenario. Figured he would have to battle Sholto’s spirit animal. But he had no idea that the Sower would be a leviathan like this.
“Fantastic”, Jon breathed. “It’s a freaking Godzilla.”
All too often, the final instalment of a series turns out to be the final wheeze from the author who has somehow lost the concept somewhere along the way. A series that started out so brightly is met with a discordant sigh of relief when the reader turns the last page and closes the book.
This reviewer is happy to report that Melissa Eskue Ousley has avoided that fate and has done so quite handily. Her writing is as fresh and as riveting at the end of The Sower Comes as it was in the opening pages of The Sign of the Throne. Ms. Ousley built upon that early momentum in The Rabbit and the Raven and maintained it superbly throughout this final installment.
Adolescence is a time when young minds begin to stretch themselves and wander through both strange and familiar realms of possibilities. The Sower Comes and its predecessors place the Young Adult reader in the heart of a marvelous and chilling adventure that may very well seem as real as life itself. Is the plot of this story and the situations which it presents a metaphor for the life and choices that we must all face at one time or another? It is up to the readers to determine that for themselves. It cannot be denied, however, that Ms Ousley’s books are among the best in contemporary Young Adult Fiction.
When the entire courtyard was alight, David spoke one last time. “It is the power of the light and the power of love that ensure peace and prosperity for all in our kingdom.”
He turned to Abby, and as one, they let their orbs go, guiding them gently into the air with their hands. Around them, everyone released their cerulean spheres.
Together they watched the shimmering orbs float up into the night sky until they were indistinguishable from the stars.