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by Michael D. Warden
Published by Barbour Publishing, 2003
Highly Recommended by: Cheryl Bader
Gideon Dawning is a graduate assistant in geology, investigating earthquakes in Colorado when a chasm opens beneath him. He awakens in a strange world known to the inhabitants as the Inherited Lands, where savage Guardians kill and destroy by the power of the spoken word. Gideon exhibits some mysterious powers of his own, which lead the rebel forces opposing the evil Council to claim Gideon as their prophesied Kinsman-Redeemer. He resists the title and role of deliverer, but joins the rebels in fleeing the Guardians' path of destruction.
At the rebels' hidden fortress of Wordhaven, Gideon learns more of the other language of power, one that heals and restores. Gideon must choose whether to join the Wordhaveners in a quest to recover the lost Book of Dei'lo, a sacred tome containing knowledge of the words of power. But before his choice is final, Council members ambush and capture him. Against overpowering odds, a small band of rebels sets out on the long-desired mission to locate the Book of Dei'lo and in the process to rescue Gideon before it's too late.
Gideon's Dawn uses vivid visual imagery that is a delight to read. Author Michael Warden paints a portrait of the Inherited Lands that is epic in scope and rich in details of history and geography it even includes a glossary at the end of the book. The imaginative descriptions provide much food for thought, as they illustrate the power of words and other spiritual principles in a literal way. The lessons are subtle, not preachy, and serve as an undercurrent to what is a very good story with strong, well-defined characters.
Comparisons to Tolkien are almost inevitable with a book of this nature, since it's aimed at fans of fantasy and Lord of the Rings. While the depth of historical and geographical detail is reminiscent of Middle-earth, Gideon's Dawn differs in its psychological emphasis. Even while Gideon grapples with his role in this new world, he struggles to come to grips with childhood sexual abuse. Though somewhat unusual for a fantasy novel, Warden handles the issue sensitively.
My greatest difficulty with Gideon's Dawn was in a way that resembled the individual books of Lord of the Rings: It ended suddenly, with promise of more to come, but many threads of the narrative remain unresolved. The ending felt anticlimactic.
Still, Gideon's Dawn is compelling story, and if my biggest complaint is that it ended too soon, I suppose that's a good sign. Book 2, according to the author's web site, is titled The Waymaker, with an expected release date in Spring 2004. My verdict on Gideon's Dawn? Highly recommended. (August, 2003)
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