Etania's Worth by M.H. Elrich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
On the planet Tearah, where the various human races possess different Neuma, or powers and gifts granted by God, Etania doubts herself and her gift. Chosen to help save the world? Yeah, right. Cute bodyguard falling in love with her? Double yeah, right. Why would anyone, especially Melchizidek the God of Tamnarae, love or believe in her when she can't even keep the attention of her own father?
Etania's Worth is a Christian allegorical quest fantasy with coming-of-age and chosen-one themes, plus a side of clean romance. Elrich doesn't hide the allegory or the Christian themes--it's stated clearly in the glossary which characters/symbols are meant to reflect Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Melchizidek also obviously has twelve followers (disciples), one of whom betrays him. None of this detracts from the story, and whilst bits of the plot may seem rather apparent or predictable to people well-versed with chosen one or Christian/faith-based stories (whether Biblical stories or fiction), the way it unfolds is nevertheless interesting.
I especially love the extensive worldbuilding you catch glimpses of as Etania, Jakin and Kayel travel throughout Tamnarae on their quest. However, "glimpses" is a key thing here--it sometimes feels as though you're rushed through the world like a tourist without fully experiencing it, which ended up more than a little confusing at times. I guess what I'm saying is that I would have liked a little more immersion, if that makes sense. Still, the Glossary was stuffed with information you didn't know you didn't know so that helped a little.
One of the key themes Elrich addresses in Etania's Worth is the idea of self-worth and acceptance, but in the Christian sense. Etania and Keyel both doubt themselves, their gifts, and their statuses in society because of their youth, experiences, and past. Elrich works with the concepts of redemption as well as reliance on God to build their confidence in both their worth, value, and acceptance of self.
My major bugbear with this novel, which is probably inordinately affected by the fact that I'm currently doing my own edits, is that it could really, really do with another round of editing. The writing is clunky in parts and, whilst readable, could have been tightened up a lot more.
The book will probably suit female YA readers (aged 15 - 20-ish) the best. Whilst there is war and fighting aplenty, there's also a huge chunk of MAYBE HE LIKES ME MAYBE HE DOESN'T WHY WOULD HE EVER LIKE ME I'M UGLY AND TERRIBLE AND USELESS that may turn off teenage boys after a bit.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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