Cover

Cover

by Melissa Eskue Ousley

Sometimes, things come between you and your sister. Sometimes, she takes up with a mortal enemy. Sometimes, she steals your child from his cradle. Rather than spiriting the child away to some mountain hide-away or foreign strand, your sister takes him though a portal to a different world . . . known as Earth . . . and after destroying the portal, hides in the quaint seaside city of Newcastle Beach, CA. What’s a mother to do? Well, Queen Eulalia of Cai Terenmare does know what to do and thus follows her sister, Lucia, through a second portal between the worlds. Lucia, however, has planned for this eventuality and has booby-trapped the portal thus leaving Eulalia horribly disfigured, and stranded in the ruins of a house, both unable to leave and unable to reach her child.

So begins, Melissa Eskue Ousley’s new book, Sign of the Throne, taking the reader on a breathless roller-coaster ride that spans two worlds. This adventure begins on Cai Terenmare, a parallel world to our Earth that is filled with – of course – magic, shape-shifters, mythological creatures and some pretty blood-thirsty monsters. There are and have been some of the same sorts of creatures here on earth and their numbers will only increase if Queen Eulalia cannot find her son and take him home before his 23rd birthday.

While David Corbin is a prince in his home world, he leads a somewhat similar life in ours. Left on the doorstep of a childless well-to-to couple, he is raised by them and grows up as a sort of an American prince with his life, career and future spouse all planned out for him. The trouble is, David is not exactly enthusiastic about his future and he becomes even less enthusiastic when he meets Abby Brown.

Abby’s life is far from that of David. She is a somewhat introverted, wallflower type of person working as a cabana girl at the Newcastle Beach Inn. Her family is of modest means and she is working various jobs during her gap year to help pay for college. Abby is, however, unusual in that she is – to use a term from David’s home world – a c’aislinger or dream walker and may well be destined to be one of the greatest seers in Cai Terenmare’s recent history.

For his part, David is destined to be the Solas Beir – roughly translated as a “light bearer”; that is, of course, if he can return home before his 23rd birthday. In order to do that, he must make his way past his formidable Aunt Moira and the dark creatures – known as the Kruorumbrae— that are becoming weary of biding their time. In order to do this, he will need help from Abby . . . even if he doesn’t know that yet.

Portals, parallel worlds, monsters and kidnapped heirs are all part and parcel of Young Adult fantasy stories. It is not so much that a story contains these elements as it is what the author does with them. Melissa Ousley wields and shapes these elements with an almost preternatural ability that makes the process of writing appear to be an effortless exercise. In the following sample, a world-weary Queen Eulalia apprises Abby of their chances of success:

“I have been imprisoned here a long time, Abby. These years in your world have made me tired and weak. But I have learned a great many things in that time. One is that I should trust in my dreams, and I have seen that this time we will win. The other thing I have learned is that even when I was in my lowest, most desperate state in this place, the universe has provided for me. It is when things seem impossible that miracles happen.”

As with most Young Adult novels, there is an element of romance. The whole romantic angle in Sign of the Throne is very smartly written from an unusually mature point of view. In many YA novels, the whole execution of the romantic element seems to be rather gloppy like overly thick porridge. In Melissa Ousley’s novel however, there is something resembling a triangle but it is decidedly skewed to one side; at least in this first book of The Solas Beir Trilogy. David and Abby are mutually interested in each other and while Abby does have a friendly relationship with Jon, her former boy-friend, he is more of a dark horse in this book than anything else. There are still two books to go in this saga and there are sure to be complications and separations between David and Abby but, thus far, there is not the usual angst which, in and of itself, is quite refreshing.

In a novel of this scope, it is often a bit difficult to keep up with all the characters and remember exactly who or what so-and-so was. Ms. Ousley goes the extra mile in Sign of the Throne by providing a listing of the dramatis personæ, a glossary of places and terms and a map of Cai Terenmare; surely a help to a reader in absorbing the rich fantasy that Melissa has laid before them.

Sign of the Throne is Melissa Eskue Ousley’s debut novel and she is off to a brilliant start. The reader will find it hard to believe that she is not a more experienced writer, but there is nothing amateurish with this book. Sign of the Throne is an extremely well written story that is remarkable in its clarity of concept and execution. This reviewer firmly believes that it should serve as a landmark – both to aspiring authors of young adult fiction and to young adults, themselves. This is what outstanding writing both looks and reads like.

Kudos must also go to the editorial team at Castle Gardens Publications for providing an extremely clean read. While copious typos are the hallmark – and bane – of both self and much of commercial publishing, Gazebo Gardens Publishing — the parent of Castle Gardens — has demonstrated the distinct advantage that a good publishing house can give to a novel.

In the final analysis, Sign of the Throne is a book which stands head and shoulders above a considerable amount of current Young Adult fiction. Inasmuch as there is a lot of good Young Adult fiction out there at the moment, this is no small accomplishment. Even if Young Adult fantasy novels do not number amongst one’s favorite genres, this story is still well worth consideration. Given the intense reading experience provided by  Sign of the Throne, this reviewer can hardly wait for the next installment in this series.

In the interest of full disclosure, the reviewer was provided with an ARC – Advance Review Copy – by the publisher.

My Rating:

Read our interview with the author, Melissa Eskue Ousley.

Melissa’s website may be found at melissaeskueousley.com/

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