Epiphany - THE GOLDING
By Sonya Deanna Terry
Edward Lillibridge is writing a farewell letter to his son. The controversial author faces trial for heresy after revealing, in a book, the true beginnings of money. FAST-FORWARD TO THE MILLENNIUM
…six months before the Global Financial Crisis rocks the economy. Lillibridge's Our True Ancient History, published under the guise of fiction, is out-of print, available only at antiquarian bookshops and largely overlooked.
Until now. Rosetta Melki, an idealist whose dream of starting a worldwide charity has been all but crushed by her sole-parent struggles, is enchanted by Our True Ancient History. Lillibridge's tale about a gold-obsessed kingdom (and the sprites they enslave: elfin clan dwellers whose currency of choice is kindness) has ignited a memory Rosetta cannot explain. Rosettta's website surrounding the reading group she's begun with friends has inspired the emergence of other Lillibridge book clubs. Her own Sydney group meets fortnightly at a vintage bungalow, the rental home she secured to escape a gruesome intruder. In a more affluent part of Sydney, finance executive Matthew Weissler (polished, successful, admired) has been questioning his slave-to-the-dollar existence and his marriage to a tantrum-throwing shopaholic. And now he's questioning his sanity after finding he's been followed by an elf. Rosetta’s intruder still lurks in the shadows, but who could the stranger be? A prowler from the suburb Rosetta and her teenaged daughter fled...or a traveller from the past, determined to suppress an ancient memory that will change the world forever?
‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘How do you know of such…magic?’
Sometimes to understand the beginning, one must first reach the end. But if any semblance of such a thought flittered through Rosetta Melki's mind when she formed her book club, Friday Fortnight, she would never recall. All she knew was that she had become utterly mesmerised by the 17th Century book by Reverend Edward Lillibridge, titled Our True Ancient History. What she had initially thought was a work of fiction started to have a tantalising ring of truth to it. Rosetta had always believed in the spiritual, but this was something new, something tangible. There was something as fresh as there was ancient about this novel, and of course, there was that elusive white rabbit that only she could see.
To the outside world, Matthew Weissler had it all — money, success, a beautiful wife. But Matthew was coming to the shocking realisation that his life had become something close to resembling a facade. Conflicted with emotional turmoil, Matthew must find the courage to listen to his heart and take the road he was destined to travel. Such conflicting emotions would perhaps explain the elf and the eagle that demanded to know if he was planning on wasting the rest of his life.
Izzie, Rosetta’s teenage daughter, may well have had a passing concern for her mother’s sanity, but her attention was on something far more important than her eccentric parent. There was a new boy in her school. Glorion Osterhoudt looked exactly like the boy she had dreamt of when she was a child, but such a thing was just a coincidence, wasn’t it…?
From the dusty pages of an old book to the realisation that the past and the present are on course to collide, Epiphany - THE GOLDING by Sonya Deanna Terry is a work of exceptional scholarship.
To pen a story in which spiritual and contemporary ideas and beliefs collide is challenging in its own right, but add to that two very different timelines is something that only a master bard should attempt. But there is magic in the air, and a master bard, Terry most certainly is.
Not only has Terry penned a book that is so unreservedly bewitching that at times I lost myself so thoroughly that I forgot where I was, but she has also written a book where the realism is tangible. This is a story that if I reached out, I fancied I could touch the softness of the rabbit’s fur, and feel the gentle breeze coming off the ocean. There is a richness to the narrative, a poetic embrace within the prose. This is the kind of book that demands your attention and rightly so, for the tale is extraordinary and yet somehow so comfortingly familiar that the line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred.
Initially, I was concerned about the vast cast of characters whose lives play out between the pages of this remarkable book, but my concern turned out to be without cause, for Terry’s careful depictions made it very simple for me to quickly understand the role each character played in this epic tale of the origins of life. With that in mind, however, I am only going to focus on two of the protagonists.
Matthew Weissler is a man who finds himself at a crossroads. His marriage is on the brink of ending, he is no longer satisfied with his career and yet he fears the unknown. Matthew is a really lovely guy who is trapped in a snare of his own making. His wife abuses him terribly both financially and emotionally and yet, because he wants an easy life, he doesn’t say anything. Likewise, his step-children speak to him appallingly, and he accepts the way they talk to him, which at times really made me cringe. When Matthew finally decides to bring about a change, he does not stop to think about it, he jumps into the deep end and desperately hopes his feet will hit the bottom so he can push his way back up again. Matthew was a character that I enjoyed reading about. There is an energy and a goodness about him that I could not help but admire.
Rosetta Melki is a character who really closed the deal on this book for me. Rosetta is a single-mother whose dreams are being crushed by the reality of her situation. She is always trying to make ends meet, and at times it seems as if the world has conspired against her — no matter what she does, she loses. I adored Rosetta. She is a woman I could relate to. She is spiritual. She is loving. She is someone you most definitely want as a friend. But she is also incredibly insecure and she fears that she will never find a man to love her the way she deserves to be loved. I thought Terry’s portrayal of Rosetta was absolutely sublime.
The antagonist of this tale is not a person but a corrupted species — the first civilisation. The Body Kings are corrupted by this gold-tainted illusion that they have about their own superiority. They expect everyone to bow down to them, whether that be celestial or terrestrial. However, one must remember that not all that glitters is gold. This race sucks the very essence from this wonderfully rich world in which they want to have complete domination over. They are a cruel and heartless species, but then Terry introduces her readers to Princess Eidred. Eidred has many of her people’s tendencies, but she also connects with the natural world around her in a way that others do not, and she becomes as much of a victim as the dragons and the elves and the fairies.
Terry’s careful use of symbolism throughout this story means that she can weave the spiritual world with that of the secular. Rosetta is a very spiritual woman. However, her financial instability and her fear that she is too old to find love anchors her very firmly to the here and now. The appearance of a white rabbit should, therefore, come as no surprise. Nevertheless, as her life begins to spiral out of control, Rosetta seemingly misses the significance of the visions that she is having of this particular rabbit. Instead, she questions her own sanity rather than embracing the rabbit’s invitation to awaken to the metaphysical and to step away from the fear that is holding her back. The rabbit is also a reminder of how far away from nature we have become and how significant a seemingly insignificant sentient being is and always will be. Terry suggests that perhaps we should come away from our gold-skinned ancestors and return balance to our world by no longer looking inwards to our own wants.
Likewise, the Forest of Ivy is an idyllically magnificent and beautiful ancient place — a garden, if not Eden then one very much like it. The sprites are natural gardeners who are at one with the environment that they inhabit.
Along with the garden is woven the story of the origins of man, which I thought was well thought through and incredibly evocative. The use of symbols is subtle, but it is so very effective. Bravo, Ms Terry. Bravo, indeed.
The idea of a first civilisation isn’t a new concept — it is explored in-depth in the Silurian Hypothesis. The Earth, our home, is over 400 million years old, so it is not such a leap of the imagination to envisage that we were not the first species to dominate the planet. Terry’s depiction introduces her readers to a world very similar to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth where the Earth is inhabited by wondrously magical creatures who are at one with nature and who happily coincided with each other until the world became corrupted. I thought Terry’s depiction of the first civilisation was painstakingly realistic and drawn with an artist's brushstroke and a novelist’s eye for detail. It certainly made for a very enthralling story.
If you are looking for a book that will sweep you away to a land of magic and destiny, then Epiphany - THE GOLDING by Sonya Deanna Terry is the novel for you. Told with an impressive sweep and brilliance, this is a book that readers of quality fiction can get very excited about. I cannot wait to get my hands on Book 2 of what promises to be the next great Historical Fantasy series.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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Epiphany - THE GOLDING
Sonya Deanna Terry
Australian author Sonya Deanna Terry was motivated to write her award-winning Epiphany trilogy because of a passion for history, mystery, romance and magic.