Author: E.J. Wenstrom
Orphaned, suspected of dark magic, responsible for a rebellion which has reached the gods and angels themselves, and desperately lonely – Rain is the story of Nia – a young girl who follows the temptation to feel peace again to a brutal new level. A prequel to Mud, Rain is a rare offering that stands on its own while also fleshing out a previously explored dystopian realm through new eyes. If you haven’t already read Mud, this short but compelling novella will capture your soul with a need equally as powerful as Nia’s consuming passion to escape depression. Luckily, an addiction to Wenstrom’s emerging voice is far less dangerous albeit eerily addicting . . . like the most elegantly woven and mysterious magic.
In the realm of Terath, history itself is a lost thing filled with myth, secrets, and deception. A world created by the distanced gods, the First Creatures (both angels and demons) serve man as intercessors to divinity. The First Creatures are powerful, semi-divine, and entirely devoid of will. Each has an aura, a power, a presence of either peace or chaos. For Nia, exposed to village superstition after the gods allow her father to die, and presaged by the emotionally enervating needs of a distraught and semi-vacant mother, these creatures are her last hope. Her ability to believe in the beneficence of the gods is long since gone. Barely shielding her own slip into sacrilege, only one being, the beautiful angel Kythiel, direct line to the goddess Thea, fills Nia with the desire to live. In his angelic presence she feels a beautiful, numbing peace and when scant touch evolves into something more, Nia’s need consumes everything – angel, order, community, and eventually herself.
When the angels seek their own free will and defy the gods, punishment is swift and all encompassing. But Nia will not be defeated so easily now that she has tasted heaven. A parting gift of stolen magic embedded in a semi-sentient necklace will give Nia the power to alleviate her loneliness. But the indifference of sanitized peace comes at a heavy price. Slowly eroding her own humanity, Nia’s peace is more akin to oblivion and Kythiel, his snow-white wings turning midnight black, continues to follow his first destructive dalliance with human passion and rebellion. A reverse Persephone mythos, both long to be fallen and seek the temptation that will erode them.
There’s something here in the atmosphere of this beleaguered world. Its fantasy elements flesh-out a living, dream-like vision which has effecting overtones of reality. It’s a different world, one where explanations are unknown and even the inhabitants don’t know how or why they were created or the true intentions of the gods. Yet, Nia’s all-consuming despair is so earthy, so reminiscent of our own encounters with depression, death, and social ostracism, that the evoked pain creates a link and a strong, never shifting desire to root for Nia even when her actions literally destroy her world and all of those around her.
Creating a character that should be unlikable due to her actions and then making this character closer to us than a child, readers fall into the strange magic of the Realm Wars series. Evocative of a more condensed version of the Dragonlance Chronicles all the stuff of good drama – and most specifically good fantasy – is intermixed to create emotional highs and lows that are addicting enough to keep sleepy readers up late at night, turning pages and wishing for more.
The only moment that ever gave me pause was the conclusion. After watching the evolution of pain into evil and the dissipation of both a realm and a person, the ending seemed too quickly enacted and devoid of the rich, vibrant detail that carries the rest of the tale and has us simultaneously worried for Nia and perversely exulting in her rebellion. Combining the lush charms of fantasy with the highs and lows of a tragic love story, Rain is a story of devastation and tarnished beauty set in a chaotic realm on the verge of collapse.
– Frances Carden
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