As a self-proclaimed fantasy junkie, I am always on the lookout for a new novel. Where will I find the next Chronicles of Narnia? Is my new Hobbit lurking around the corner? This week I discovered a gem in The Insight: Book One of Athira.
I grew up devouring books like The Hero and the Crown, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Phantom Tollbooth. I love discovering new worlds, stretching my imagination, and getting lost in an epic adventure.
That’s why I was so excited when I received a copy of Owen Gabriel Danielson’s new book The Insight: First Book of Athira to review. Not only is The Insight an excellent work of fantasy, but Danielson’s Orthodox faith also inspires themes throughout the work. As an Orthodox Christian myself, I couldn’t wait to see how our faith could intersect with the fantasy genre.
The Insight did not disappoint.
The story begins with Evelyn, a young woman who possesses “the insight” often viewed by madness as her people, journeying away from her family and land to avoid a terrible fate. She travels to Athira where three distinct races of beings have lived with varying degrees of peace.
Upon arrival, she joins the Sisters of The Quiet as an enquirer and finds comfort in the daily time of The Quiet. Soon, however, a plague disrupts her peaceful existence, and Evelyn must discover who she actually is, and what “the insight” really means, in order to save the inhabitants of Athira.
There are many things that I love about The Insight:
Danielson’s writing stays true to the form of the fantasy genre. The world of Athira has its own rich culture, language, history, and people. There is also an important magical element, as each of the three races of beings have their own type of magic. What that magic is and how it is used reveals a great deal about each. Any reader of fantasy will feel at home within the world of The Insight.
Respect for the Reader
I personally enjoy a book where the author does not spell out every detail about the new world he or she has created. Danielson shows this respect for the reader by allowing the reader to deduce various aspects of the world–its history, its rules, and its dangers. I felt as though I were piecing together clues that led me to a greater understanding of the setting and the characters themselves.
One of the most mysterious characters in the book is the Wanderer–a star that does not follow a set, ordained course. The Wanderer chose to chart its own course near the beginning of time and is the star that set the world of Athira into motion. As the reader progresses in the book, questions about the intention of the star and its actual role in the world arise. Why is the Wanderer pushed back by The Quiet? Is the Wanderer a benign or a malignant force in the world? What is The Quiet and from where does it draw its power?
These themes of good and evil, of desiring and grasping for autonomy and rejecting the Order: all of these themes find their basis in an Orthodox understanding of faith, sin, and the world. However, I appreciate the subtlety of the themes. The reader isn’t hit over the head with them, but is instead allowed to mull over various ideas and draw their own conclusions.
I loved The Insight: First Book of Athira. I heartily recommend it for adults and teens who love fantasy. If you are an Orthodox Christian:
-this book would make a wonderful addition to your library
-you could also read it as a family and use it for discussions
-perhaps a church youth group would enjoy reading it together for a book club
-godparents can give it as a gift to teenage godchildren
If you are not Orthodox, I still recommend the book. True fantasy lovers will find the world created in the novel unique and compelling. The themes of good and evil, dark and light are universal in their appeal and application.
I, for one, am certainly looking forward to the next book in the series.
What fantasy novels do you enjoy?
(This post contains affiliate links. I received a free copy of the book for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.)
(Linked to Quick Lit.)