Saturday, August 11, 2012

Reviews for Eanna

"Eanna" is the third installment in Andre SanThomas' Realm of Janos saga, and fans of the first two books will find much to like here, both familiar and fascinatingly new. To those readers as yet uninitiated into the pleasures of this series, I would strongly recommend starting at the beginning with "Ielle" and then "Ovia" as the storyline is cumulative and each new tale increasingly referential to characters and events in the previous books. "Eanna" draws its essential backstory from "Ovia," while offering readers a deeper, more detailed picture of the customs and rituals of SanThomas' magnificently sensual fantasy-verse.

Princess Eanna holds an exalted position in the religious life of her world, Handmaiden to the Crown of Harmony, she serves the "manly needs" of the Council of Oblates. Chosen out of many for her surpassing grace, skill, discipline, centeredness--"so regal, so cool, so adored . . . so alone"--yet her bodily submission to these old men is not emotionally involved. In fact, she has been little more than a glorified scratching post--a sacred hole, as it were--and while such a position is considered the highest of hallowed honors in her world, it has not prepared her for the very different life that awaits when time comes for her to step down with the choosing of a successor

Much of the action in "Eanna" centers on two elaborate series of contests; the first to determine the new Handmaiden, the second to find a champion worthy to claim the former princess as his owned property--the normal custom of civilized people in this world. Both competitions are elaborate, highly theatrical undertakings, rigorous and demanding, reminiscent of the trials and contests so familiar from reality television, yet filtered through a very original High Fantasy lens, titillating and thought-provoking both at once.

With this installment the storytelling has become more streamlined, the language seems simpler, more stripped down and direct. In this passage, we see Eanna performing a sacred dance for a gathered assembly:

"Eanna held the crown high above her head, twirling below it, letting it capture the light and reflect off the walls. Her dress swirled around her, a glimmering soft pink sheer that billowed about her in a circle from her shoulders to her thighs. She ran gracefully across the room, then leaped into the air, legs wide apart, toes pointed sharply, the Crown held high. She landed like a feather, full of sunshine and light and sky. Eanna bent to the floor with it, bringing it ever so close but not touching the ground with it. She held it in one hand, high over her head. She twirled on one foot, the other held aloft, floating, the Crown shimmering in her hand.

The Crown rolled over her skin. She moved it behind her back, then to the front again. She set it reverently on the floor and danced around it, dropping to her knees and leaning back in a deep arch. She pulled herself up again, moving gracefully, fluidly, arms waving and fingers cupping the air. Bent double, she carefully balanced the crown at the small of her back. She clasped her hands behind her ankles, carefully turning in a full circle without causing it to fall. She took it from her back, then tossed it skywards while she twirled. Those watching gasped as it flew upwards. She sank to the floor and rolled twice before catching it just a breath from the ground. Applause broke out throughout the room. Yes, there was always applause when she did the dance. She practiced so many hours to get just the right sense of drama. She knew she executed it perfectly. She had never once dropped the Crown. She did not fail."

This is very good--but even better is the author's exploration of her heroine's inner life. For all the outward sensual wonder of this tale, Eanna seems to have been imagined from the inside out, giving us a degree of emotional truth that seldom finds its way into erotic storytelling. More difficult than the physical trials to be endured are the emotional obstacles to be overcome; the casting off of arrogance and pride; the search for her own inner light which can be kindled only when she accepts her own ordinariness; the challenge of bringing that light to her eyes, shining only for the man who will claim her.

Above all, this story is a paen to the beauty of monogamous belonging, so famously celebrated in the ancient sacred erotic texts of our own world--the "Kama Sutra," the "Ananga Ranga;" a truth, often repeated, extolling the virtues of the most accomplished lovers, adept in the art of pleasing one partner over the course of a lifetime as opposed to one who takes many partners and satisfies none; for it is in knowing and understanding one's true place that genuine satisfaction and bliss are found. Ultimately it takes more talent, wisdom and imagination to keep the fires burning high in the long-shared life of two, and "it is the superior man who can so learn his lover as to cause her nightly fainting."

This same spirit is gloriously alive in "Eanna." Highly recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment