Wednesday 1 November 2023

#bookreview: To Form a Passage | Sharon Rose

To Form a Passage (Arts of Substance, #1)To Form a Passage by Sharon Rose
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's this thing about Sharon Rose's books, at least for me. For every new series of hers that I start, it takes a while for things to gel together. It's like there's this high price of admission - you need to be persistent, to press on, to get to the payoff.

But, as with all her novels, oh boy, what a gem. You'll be glad you persisted. You'll close the book with a sigh, eager to read the next one.

To Form a Passage takes place in an all new fantasy world, one where the people live underground and have special gifts from Ellincreo that help them survive. There are the Formers (which I capitalise, even though Rose doesn't, so I kept stumbling over it) who can form stone and metal. There are the Streamers, who can sense water and guide them to wherever they wish. And then there are the Wind Weavers, who do the same with air and wind.

Living underground, emphasis is placed on Formers who are fundamental in making sure that the roofs are stable, that new caves and light sources can be found, that metal and ore can be extracted to trade for food. Streamers help with finding water and rivers - often food sources in their own right and necessary for living - but Wind Weavers are almost forgotten, because who remembers about the air until it runs out?

And so (obviously) there is a catastrophe, and suddenly everyone underground is cut off from the land above, including access to food, resources, and their main government in the form of the King and his Judges.

Whilst this struggle to survive encompasses the core of the conflict, visions and gifts are the most important aspect of To Form a Passage. The novel revolves around Devron in Jourandia and the vision he saw right before the catastrophe. It's beautiful and awe-inspiring, and Devron is convinced that it came from Ellincreo. It's something he feels compelled to build, as dangerous as it is. But as fear grips the underground cities, the gifted - especially the Formers - are banned from using their gifts, despite the fact that it is those very gifts that have kept them alive so far.

Thematically, much of this struggle pings my Christian radar, as if Rose is pondering on that verse in Matthew 25:29 which says:
For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
Or Luke 12:48(b) which says:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Because as the story progresses, and the ban on using their gifts continues, Devron has to ask the hard question: Are the Formers not using their gifts because they are blindly obedient to the law? Or is it because they have lost them altogether?

And what now should he do with the vision which may be both Jourandia's salvation and his death?

Weighty reflections indeed, wrapped in a fantastic story.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Get on Amazon! To Form a Passage releases 2 November 23 (Affiliate link) 

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