BOOK CHOP: THE HELDAN
I'm so very happy to add this review by Graham Bradley to my blog and to my website.
Title: The Heldan
Author: Deborah Talmadge-Bickmore
Rating: 4 stars
There's a story behind why I enjoyed this book so much. Let me explain.
When I was in the tenth grade, and had virtually no taste in movies, books or music, I picked up and read Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard. I wanted to read it because the movie was coming out that summer, and it looked cool, because I was 15 and--as I said--had no taste.
The book didn't suck as bad as the movie did. It's indicative of what you could get away with in the sci/fi and fantasy genres thirty years ago (B.E. was written in the early early 1980s). Despite the book sucking, there were still plenty of elements I liked about it, namely that the world was well-defined and I felt like I could see all those things happen. I could see a wide open, silent landscape ripe for exploring and understanding, especially a thousand years after the earth had begun taking over cities. It was just really cool to think about.
Well, Deborah Talmadge-Bickmore created a world that was just as tangible and put it in a book that didn't suck. The Heldan is the story of a young woman named Senea who gets pulled into her tribe's military/law enforcement band through a process equivalent to the draft, though with a few more details. Life is hard for her as she strives to train to become a heldan warrior under the harsh, heavy hand of her master Vayhawk.
This is an outdoorsy book. Vayhawk and Senea pretty much do all their training while roughing it outdoors. Lots of excursions take place in the heat of the day, and a good portion of those excursions get interrupted by invading raiders from an enemy tribe--an element that Deborah uses to sort of hijack the story and screw up the helden's plan for the day. There is also an excellent story arc with a challenge of heldan Games, where Senea has to duke it out with another warrior. This keeps the story on track but breaks up the monotony of "Let's go camping, let's train, oh crap here come the Ja'Sid warriors again."
It was also a very visual book. I could see these places clearly in my head and it really made me want to travel down to Moab, Utah and ride the White Rim Trail on a mountain bike. Deborah
expressed the desire for me to "go easy on" this book the last time I saw her in June, given that it was her first, but there was really no need. I liked it; it was a relaxing dip into the waters of bread-and-butter fantasy without being overly epic or underdeveloped. This is one of those fundamental fantasy stories that doesn't rely on elves, dwarves or dragons, or a quest for a sword or a ring or treasure or anything like that. It's more of an adjustment from a complacent lifestyle to a demanding life of action, and the character responds to it with admirable composure.
This book is out of print, but you can find used copies of it online at Amazon. Just click on the link at the top. Also, go drop by Deborah's blog, I'm sure she'd love to hear from you!