Monday, February 7, 2011

Trion Rising, Shadowside Trilogy #1

“I thought you said you knew how to fly this thing!”

“I did. I do. Trust me.”

Easy for him to say. Oriannon could only grip her stiff bucket seat with both hands and count down the final seconds of her young life. She cringed at the buzz of a high-pitched warning.

“On present course, nine second to impact,” came the metallic warning voice. “Eight seconds…”

So begins science fiction adventure Trion Rising, book one in Robert Elmer’s Shadowside Trilogy. The action-packed story addresses the question “What would it look/sound/feel like if Jesus visited another planet?”

Trion Rising takes place on Corista, a small planet revolving around three suns. One side of the planet is bathed in perpetual light, the other side layered in darkness. The story focuses on two teens (Oriannon Hightower of Nyssa, daughter of a ruling elder, and Margus Leek, an affable commoner with a bent for mischief) and their relationship with the school's substitute music teacher Mentor Jesmet.

While Jesmet claims to follow the Codex (an old, Scripture-like book that’s seeped in tradition and serves as the law of the land), his interpretation of the Codex leaves authorities on edge. In addition, not only does Jesmet teach strange songs and ideas, he also displays mysterious powers. He is able to read unspoken thoughts, heal blindness and injury, and make disgusting lunchroom food disappear. The ruling council cannot find fault with Jesmet, but they despise him nonetheless. Probes sent to monitor Jesmet’s activities and stun batons meant to intimidate him malfunction instead.

As daughter of an elder, Oriannon is pressured into spying on Jesmet, a task she resists will all her power. Her refusal to cooperate with authorities causes them to use an invasive and dangerous mind scan on her. The operation wipes out Oriannon’s memories, but provide the elders with a means to arrest Jesmet for seemingly breaking the rules of the Codex. When Jesmet is convicted and banished to the Shadowside, Oriannon escapes and flees after him. She soon finds herself in danger of drowning in a lake in the cold landscape, but is saved by Owlings, people who live on Shadowside.

In school, Oriannon had been taught that the Owlings were savage creatures, but she finds out that they are actually a gentle, loving people who follow Jesmet’s teachings. Plus, in stark contrast to the Brightsiders, they not only KNOW the Codex… they UNDERSTAND and PRACTICE it. Plus they hear Jesmet speaking to them and trust him to guide them.

Then Oriannon discovers something new: the Brightsider government is stealing the Owling’s water, attacking their cities, and killing their people.

Margus comes back into the story to rescue Oriannon from the Owlings. He likewise is welcomed by them. With Jesmet’s blessing, the two teens are sent back to the bright side with a new mission: to prevent the elders from destroying the Owlings. It’s up to Oriannon and Margus to expose the truth… but no one seems to be listening to them. Worse, because of Oriannon, Jesmet allows himself to be recaptured, hounded by television reporters, and put on trial. To Oriannon’s dismay, he is executed before a public crowd for crimes he didn’t commit.

Still committed to her mission, Oriannon races across Corista to save the Owling people from certain death. She succeeds in turning back the warships… but her victory is overshadowed by something even greater… the return of Jesmet! At his return, dawn finally comes to the dark side of the planet. Like Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, Oriannon identifies Jesmet as “The Song”.

Even though the story is, in essence, a retelling of the gospel, the unique science fiction elements, characters, and plot twists give it a fresh new perspective. The well-written tale moves at a fast pace and is ripe with subtle spiritual themes of faith, truth, sacrifice, and forgiveness.

What I Like: Elmer crafted a masterful story. He starts right in the middle of action with an out-of-control interplanetary pod and never looks back. His teenage characters are complex and believable, and his portrayal of Jesmet both delightful and thought provoking. Nothing about the story or its themes seemed forced; instead the story unfolds like exquisite origami.

What I Dislike: I am not a big fan of the cover art.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: While intended for a YA audience, I feel it will appeal to adult readers as well.

Publisher Info: Zondervan, 2008; ISBN:978-0310714217 ; Paperback, 352 PGS., $9.99

Buy it Now at for $7.99
OR Buy it at for $9.99.
OR Buy the Kindle Version for $7.99.
OR Buy the MP3 Audiobook for $9.99.

Special Info: Visit Rober Elmer's website.
See The Owling, the second book in the trilogy, and Beyond Corista, the third book in the trilogy.

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