Thursday, May 17, 2007

'The Map of the Known World: Tree of Life Trilogy Book 1' by Steven Smith

Title: The Map of the Known World: Tree of Life Trilogy Book 1
Author: Steven Smith
Price: $19.95, paperback; free ebook at
Genre: Sci-fi/Futuristic/Fantasy
ISBN: 978-1-84728-422-8, paperback
Publisher: Lulu Press
Point of Sale: Lulu

An adventurous story about a teenage orphan burdened with getting the “Map of the Known World” safely to the Illuminati. The young girl’s journey is long, taking her across land, sea and mountain. At the same time, she dodges Redeemers wanting the map; minions belonging to Prester John, ruler of the Known World and head Patriarch of the Mother Church. Aiding her quest are pixies, barbegs and other fey folk as she battles against spriggans, Lantern men, man-eating merpeople, and other sea monsters. Tested time after time is her courage and self-belief. Still, can a fourteen-year-old child handle a task where many adults failed?

Built into the Ulmeria Mountains, the Ulsacro palace has housed five centuries of Patriarch’s. Today, Prester John holds that position exerting a sinister command that places fear instead of reverence into the hearts of his people. However, he still shares that power with the rebellious Illuminati, having not crushed their influence…yet. Possessing the map will place Prester John as supreme ruler over the entire world. He commands the Redeemers to exterminate anyone who comes into contact with map, but without fail return with the artifact.

Elowen, an orphan since birth, bears severe treatment by the orphanage Master and her fellow orphans. Told daily how useless she is maligns her esteem and sense of worthiness. Through books and tales shared with her one friend, Uther, Elowen imagines wonderful adventures outside the orphanage. Her chance meeting with the town jokester makes those fantasies real.

Tom Hickathrift hides behind a fa├žade of peculiarity while living in an abandon watchtower. His spirited though pleasant demeanor contrasts against the town’s gloom. His befriending Elowen intended, as destiny ordained it since her birth. Tom explains the purpose of the Holy Null, where all fifteen-year-old children must partake. Cold iron embedded into the right brow allows Prester John and his Redeemers to track and control the people he rules; keeps any insurgents from rising against him. Elowen continues to visit Tom every night, regaling her with old tales. On one such visit, she meets Vortigern, an Illuminati who escapes the Redeemers to bring Tom the Map of the Known World. Before they can fully tell their tale, the Redeemers storm the watchtower. As Tom and Vortigern battle the enemy, Elowen escapes with the map entrusted to deliver it to the Illuminati sanctuary. She must reach the town, Prevennis as soon as possible, for its King knows the location of the sanctuary.

Having stayed up until one in the morning to finish reading it, “The Map of the Known World: Tree of Life Trilogy Book 1” is an exciting novel. With a pixie, Bucca guiding her through the forest, she stumbles upon her nemesis, Diggory; head boy who mercilessly harassed her at the orphanage. He tells of Redeemers removing children from their parents, beating them, and then taking them away in carriages. Escaping leaves him with nowhere else to go so he joins her quest. Together they defeat spriggans only to later fall prey to Malengin, resident of the Island of Ictis. Staying on the island beyond the two days intended Elowen and Diggory soon realize they are to be sacrificed to the merpeople. Ictis King Nadelek contracted to feed humans to the sea beasts, in exchange for protection from the Redeemers. Nonetheless, Diggory and Elowen escape from the island only to experience more peril as their journey to Prevennis continues.

Another suspenseful high point is the fall of Prevennis. The Hammersund castle is impenetrable, but the King’s oldest son, the heir apparent, sides with Prester John. Bringing down the only man who knows where the Illuminati haven is located. With the execution of King Olaf, his younger son, Bo escapes prison and bands with the barbegs in raising an army against his brother.

“Map of the Known World” is a story easily shared with pre-teens and young adults, Mr. Smith hands over fascinating characters that animate the beguiling exploits of a young girl. Yet, he masterfully weaves an intricate story basis, pulling from his active support of environmental issues and knowledge of local English folklore. Mr. Smith gives the reader rich insight into each character. Elowen’s plight inside the orphanage is tangible. Years of brutal condemnation meted by classmates, townspeople and the orphanage Master weighs heavy. Many times on the journey, self-doubt overshadows her true capabilities, but her sense of honor, especially to those she has promised, fuels her courage to move forward. With his snow-white hair and pink eyes, Bo, too, suffers the same extreme criticism from his mother and brother. His sense of honor feeds his courage, surpassing any self-doubt.

I eagerly await the next book in this trilogy, “The Ordeal of Fire”, tentatively scheduled for release December 2007.


Reviewed by: In August of 2006, Pamela broke into book review writing with Erotic Escapades, but writes for The Erotic Bookworm, The Muse Book Reviews, Romance At Heart, and now POD People. Her own web site, Chewing the Bone exhibits book reviews in multilple genres, including children and young adult fiction. With all that she has going on Pamela finds time to dabble in flash-fic writing. Although, she doesn't aspire in becoming a published novelist, because it would take valuable time away from her first love... reading.

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