The past comes back. Forty long years ago the Council for Exploration Into Worlds Unseen came apart, ending tumultuously after an all-too-brief quest for hidden truth. Its members scattered, took up new lives. Died, a few of them. Now, four decades after they knocked at the door of worlds unseen, the worlds unseen are knocking at theirs.
When the knock sounded on Eva Cook’s door, Maggie Sheffield – the girl she had taken in and raised – answered. She found truth. And danger found her.
Worlds Unseen, written by Rachel Starr Thomson, is the first book in the Seventh World Trilogy. It’s fantasy, but not typically so. The world has a feel of medieval mixed with the nineteenth century. Trains and tea kettles invoke the era of Laura Ingalls Wilder; swords and overlords invoke the era of Robin Hood. A wilder past, only a few centuries gone, has a memorial in the wandering Gypsies and a princess descended from the ancient kings. In a flash of modernity, the people do not only disbelieve their folk tales; they are forgetting them.
All these elements come together in remarkable cohesion. The characters, too, are of many different kinds – princesses and Gypsies, farmers and professors, lords and revolutionaries. Thomson endows them with a humanness readers can believe.
The writing style, too, is a mixture. In a way it seemed omniscient to me; the narrative moved from one character’s head to another’s mid-scene. In a way it seemed limited third-person; the narrative hewed closely to the characters’ viewpoints. You would think there’s a writing flaw somewhere in there, but it’s done so smoothly I can’t fault it.
Rachel Starr Thomson gives the book a spiritual dimension. Most of the characters do not appear to have much religion. By an interesting turn, their world’s true religion is wrapped up in history hidden in fairytales. But a spiritual reality encompasses them all. The question begins as what they will do about the worlds unseen; gradually it broadens to what the worlds unseen will do about them.
The one element of the book that needed further development was Maggie’s romance. The beginning was unexpected, the end was moving, but the middle was too brief. They said it was love and I believed them. But I would have liked to see it grow.
Worlds Unseen began with an ordinary girl seeking the meaning of an old scroll, and slowly grew ever wider and deeper. The threads came together wonderfully. I ended the book with the rush of pleasure and satisfaction that is the success of a novel. Rachel Starr Thomson writes with skill and imagination, weaving her story with mystery and beauty. Worlds Unseen is a very creditable addition to Christian fantasy.
Worlds Unseen is available as a free e-book on SmashWords. It can also be bought hard-copy from Amazon, B&N, and Rachel Starr Thomson’s site. The Seventh World Trilogy has an excellent site, with information on the books, the characters, the world and its history; there is also a section devoted to Christian fantasy, featuring reviews, interviews, links, and Rachel’s Apologetic. Earlier I posted an interview with Rachel Starr Thomson; here is the rest of the blog tour:
Phyllis Wheeler (Nov 21)
Carol Keen (Nov 26, Dec 2, and Dec 9)
Bluerose’s Heart (Nov 28)
Lindsay Franklin (Nov 30, Dec 7)
Sarah Sawyer (Dec. 9)